Man in the Attic Film Details
Overview: After an enigmatic, self-described pathologist rents the attic room of a Victorian house, his landlady begins to suspect her lodger is Jack the Ripper.
Tagline: The Life…The Loves…The Crimes of Jack the Ripper!
Review: This film has been quite well-reviewed elsewhere here, so I will confine myself to making some pertinent comments left pretty much unaddressed elsewhere: For a film that depends so much on late-19th century English atmosphere, and somewhat achieves it visually, the accents of the six leading actors in it can be jarring, to say the least. Only Lester Matthews as a senior inspector really sounds British. Jack Palance sounds unambiguously American, as does Frances Bavier, while Rhys Williams as Bavier’s husband sounds Welsh (which he was). Byron Palmer, who had only recently opened his mouth in TONIGHT WE SING to have Jan Peerce’s voice come pouring out, was not a bad actor, but was a very poor choice for an English police inspector (especially next to George Sanders in the 1944 version) and also comes over as totally American. Constance Smith was Irish, but even she sounds more American than British. This wouldn’t be important in a film with characters of diverse national backgrounds (think CASABLANCA), but a polyglot Jack the Ripper story is unconvincing. Many of the distance or action scenes in this film (the police climbing balconies, rooftops and the like) are actually taken right out of 1944’s THE LODGER, and only portions of such scenes re-filmed to show the actors in this production, thereby contributing to its B-movie appearance. Constance Smith is quite good, and far more believable in her role than was Merle Oberon nine years earlier. Ms. Oberon came over as a bit too mature and certainly a bit too classy to be a Music Hall Queen, and she did not dance or high kick half as well as Ms. Smith. The Ripper is described as ‘of average height’, yet Jack Palance is anything but of average height and build and is of such huge presence that he would stand out in almost any crowd. Motivation is considerably changed between the 1944 and 1953 versions: In the earlier film, Cregar’s character is psychologically forced to do the things he does by the death of his beloved brother, brought to ruin by a loose actress. In the 1953 version, he hates women of the streets (read prostitutes) because his mother was a truly nasty piece of work and ended up as one of them. Most amazingly, in the 1953 version, mention is made of his mother’s name and a bright detective recalls that that was the name of Jack’s first victim, and we then see the cops looking at a picture of her. Although this provides a tie-in to Slade, it is never again mentioned, nor is the fact that this would imply that Slade murdered his mother in the street to start off his killing spree (a possible shock to a 1953 movie-goer’s system in that pre-Norman Bates era!). Also, we see a photo of a reasonably young woman, yet if Slade is, say, in his early 30s, she would have to have been at least 50. No mention is made of the fact that the two victims we do see and get to know a little are played by veteran actresses Isabel Jewell (memorable in everything she ever did) and Lillian Bond (a British-cum-American leading lady of the 1930s who was Melvyn Douglas’s love interest in the original THE OLD DARK HOUSE). The latter character, who had starred at the Music Hall where the Smith character is now achieving much success, is not nearly as well defined as in the 1944 version. In the final chase through the streets, care has not been taken to disguise the fact that the driver of Slade’s horse and carriage bears absolutely no resemblance to Jack Palance. Palance is truly excellent in this, yet the somewhat ‘hammier’ (not meant pejoratively) performance by Laird Cregar seems more memorable, if only for the earlier film’s extraordinary ‘heavy-breathing’ sequence (sans music or any other sound) from Cregar when he is, as they say, cornered like a rat. As everyone agrees, the songs heard here are both out of place for this story, and out of fashion for its period, but so were the ones in the 1944 version. The whole thing would have made more sense and been more believable had Lily been an actress in, say, an Oscar Wilde play, rather than a Music Hall star. Despite the accent problem and a lack of true suspense throughout, it is certainly enjoyable to be reminded of just how well Jack Palance was doing at the time (think of the evil hired gun in SHANE, the actor pushed to murderous intent in Joan Crawford’s SUDDEN FEAR, and only a bit later, the crushed actor in THE BIG KNIFE) and to see him here in one of his less well-remembered films from that period.
Country: United States
Duration: 82 min
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Also known as: O anthropos tis sofitas,Farlig følge,Man in the Attic,Kvindemorderen Jack the Ripper,La mano nell’ombra,De doder van Londen,El hombre del ático,Mies ullakolla,Jack el destripador,Le Tueur de Londres,Om la mansardă,Jack l’éventreur,Jack, o Estripador,Mannen i vindskupan,O Estranho Inquilino,Человек на чердаке,L’Étrange Mr. Slade,Covek u potkrovlju,Bar kadınları,Der unheimliche Untermieter,Le tueur de Londres