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  Man Who Finally Died, The Flummoxed By Father
Year: 1963
Director: Quentin Lawrence
Stars: Stanley Baker, Peter Cushing, Georgina Ward, Mai Zetterling, Eric Portman, Niall MacGinnis, Nigel Green, Barbara Everest, Harold Scott, Martin Boddey, Alfred Burke, Larry Taylor, Brian Wilde
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: When Joe Newman (Stanley Baker) shows up in this Bavarian town, the authorities there have already taken an interest in him, and when he goes to check in at the local hotel, they are tailing him. He asks at the reception whether there are any messages about Kurt Deutsch, only to be told that he died a couple of days ago; Newman acts surprised, saying he thought he died twenty years ago. It seems he is Deutsch's son, from before the Second World War, and Newman fled for Britain with a change of name at nine years old. But now he is back to find out about his past, and how that past will affect his future - the trouble is, those authorities will do everything in their power to prevent him.

The Man Who Finally Died started out as a television serial in 1959, and indeed such spy and suspense serials were still being made into the nineteen-eighties, watch this and you may be reminded of sitting in front of Barriers or Maelstrom and not having the faintest notion of what was going on. That was a problem here, in that the screenwriters may have been aware of the finer details of the storyline, but they did not do a very good job of relating them to the audience. Yes, you say, but this was supposed to be a mystery drama, so you are not supposed to know exactly what is happening until the end of the movie, as in a whodunit. Fine, but the solution to the mystery will have left many audiences none the wiser either.

Imagine watching this over weekly instalments and struggling to recall what had happened the previous week, not easy, therefore it was a blessing that you could watch the film version in well under two hours and compress that confusion into a far more compact experience. The televisual origins did show, so there was a lot of the characters holding intense conversations, so what they did to render it more cinematic was to shoot it in 2.35:1 (not technically Cinemascope, but the same ratio). Considering that look can be very pleasing, especially in black and white from this era, it did have an eye-catching quality that came across as more important than it probably was, but star Baker was a man who deserved to be seen on the widest screen available, and that is what he was delivered here with full knowledge his personality would fit nicely.

This was really an actor fanciers movie, given how impenetrable it was, and the cast, though not expansive, was solid. Peter Cushing was second-billed, taking a break from horror pictures to essay the role of an ex-Nazi who knows more about Deutsch than he is letting on, seemingly kindly and concerned, but with a past slotting into the theme of guilt that made itself more apparent as this wore on. Mai Zetterling was a relative who also knows more than she is letting on (do you detect a pattern here?), but kind of ushered off the screen by Georgina Ward, who the producers appeared to have high hopes for as the next big thing (she wasn't). In support, old reliables like Eric Portman and Niall McGinnis loomed menacingly, and you could relish their scenes with Baker as sparring matches, literally in the case of Nigel Green who gets into tussles with Newman. There was an intriguing element where we're unsure if the hero is entirely sane, but not quite enough was done with it. Nevertheless, as a professional indie trying to swim with the sharks, it looked the part even if it didn't sound it. Dramatic music by Philip Green (overfond of harpsichord stings).

[Network release this on a great-looking Blu-ray with an interview with one of the actors, a vintage TV episode, an image gallery and subtitles as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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