The Man Who Haunted Himself
September 1, 2003
Basil Dearden, ,
Starring: Roger Moore, Hildegarde Neil, Alastair Mackenzie, Hugh Mackenzie, Kevork Malikyan, Thorley Walters, Anton Rodgers, Olga Georges-Picot, Freddie Jones, John Welsh, Edward Chapman, Laurence Hardy, Charles Lloyd Pack, Gerald Sim, Ruth Trouncer, ,
Sir Roger Moore is known primarily as everyone’s favourite British secret agent 007 but has been involved in many other films such as this overlooked 1970 release getting the DVD treatment courtesy of Anchor Bay. Directed by Basil Deardon – who was responsible for the classic romp The Assassination Bureau & one of the first anthology horror movies, the legendary Dead Of Night – The Man Who Haunted Himself is a psychological thriller with a supernatural edge.
Inspired by a short story from the Alfred Hitchcock Presents series the plot centres on uptight businessman Harold Pelham. After a strange car crash & subsequent overseas convalescence he returns to work. But things start to take a bizarre turn when colleagues claim to see him in places he has not been & acting out of character. All this occurs amid the rather hostile take over negations of his company & as the plot progresses & the activities of this other self increase Pelham feels his sense of reality slowly ebbing away. What begins, he thinks, as the childish prank of friends becomes a more dangerous game as he endeavours to discover the truth. But at what cost?
Bryan Forbes states on the informative commentary that Sir Roger Moore has “always been underestimated as an actor” & the DVD releases of The Man Who Haunted Himself should hopefully go some way to addressing that as he gives a first rate performance. As interpreted by Moore Harold Pelham is an uptight restrained individual who never does anything out of the ordinary, always sticking to a rigid schedule. His portrayal of Pelham & his descent into paranoia centres the film, turning a somewhat fantastical premise into a riveting reality. Not only this but he has to play a second version of Pelham, this he does with a subtle shift in style which brings to life the evil doppelganger. Moore is the rock around which all the other characters revolve & is assisted by a collection of fine British character actors. The legendary Thorley Walters has a fun role as Pelham’s rather jovial chum & Anton Rogers is first rate as Harold’s main confidant & friend Tony Alexander. Special mention must also go to Hildegarde Neil as his wife, delivering a great performance of a woman unsure as to what is happening to the man she loves. The two actors complement each other well & their scenes together, which depict the problems in their domestic life as well as the current crisis, add further depth to the movie.
Basil Deardon directs with a flair for realism rather than the more bombastic OTT approach that Hollywood would inevitably use to make this movie. Filming in real locations rather than on sets he creates a believable world for these unreal events to play out amongst & as the nature of the other Pelham’s activities increases & becomes more threatening so too does the pace & style of the film. There is a palpable sense of a man spiralling out of control as his sanity is tested to the limits by the strange events happening to him. Not least when an alleged mistress provides him with photographic evidence of his presence at a location he has never been to. Deardon expertly piles on the pressure as the film builds to a thrilling climax in which the fate of Harold Pelham & what the hell has been happening will be decided once & for all & it is here that he incorporates a more surreal directorial style. Again Moore excels in these final scenes, capturing the essence of a man on the verge of mental breakdown superbly. A far cry from the suave spy that would make him an international star.
Alongside the main feature Anchor Bay have included a few extras. A trailer for the film & an extensive biography for Sir Roger Moore are nice but it is the commentary track that makes the disc worthy of purchase. Moderated by Jonathon Sothcott it features Moore – in his first audio commentary – & Bryan Forbes, who was an uncredited writer/producer on the film. Filled with Rogers’s typical self-deprecating wit it is a great track, together they discuss the history of the studio that made the film, the cast & practically everything you want to now about this lost British classic including why it was not the box office success it should have been upon release.
The Man Who Haunted Himself is a sadly forgotten British film. It has an intriguing plot, which builds to a finely crafted finale helped by great direction & top notch acting not only from Moore, with arguably a career best performance, but the supporting cast as well. All praise to Anchor Bay who have done it again, giving an overlooked cult gem a release that will hopefully give the film a new & deservedly larger audience.