Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Woman in Question


The Woman in Question is a relatively unsung film, made in 1950 by Anthony Asquith, the son of a former Prime Minister. I found a DVD version in my quest for whodunit movies – as I've mentioned before in this blog, they are much scarcer than thrillers. And I certainly wasn't disappointed with this one.

A woman (played by Jean Kent) who scrapes a living as a fortune teller in a small seaside town is found strangled in her home. A police team headed by Duncan MacRae investigates and interviews a series of witnesses and potential suspects. The unusual and clever feature of the film is that each witness portrays the victim in a different light, so that understanding her character from the contrasting accounts becomes key to solving the crime. What other books and films have done this so explicitly? A few, but not a large number, I think.

Among the witnesses is a young stage performer played by Dirk Bogarde, whose American accent is so ropey that it comes as a great relief when he admits to his girlfriend that he was actually born in Liverpool – not that there is any trace of a Scouse accent, either. But overall he and the rest of the cast do a good job.

When it emerged that the dead woman had a pet parrot, I anticipated that the bird would provide the detectives with a vital clue, and so it proved. I managed to figure out the identity of the murderer, but this did not in any way spoil my enjoyment of a short, snappy and entertaining mystery movie. It is almost a British film noir, and I can definitely recommend it.

8 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for this recommendation. This one's a film I wasn't familiar with, but it certainly sounds worth looking up. Another for my list of films to see...

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, I honestly think you are likely to enjoy it. Even though dated, it is very interesting and not over-long.

Richmonde said...

This is one of my favourite films of all time. Seedy seaside atmosphere, Hermione Baddeley, the lovely and funny Jean Kent, Duncan McCrae as the investigating officer, filmed on location. I taped it from the TV in the days when TV companies screened this kind of b/w film - why don't they any more??????????

Toyin O. said...

Great review, thanks for sharing.

Philip Amos said...

I have a vague recollection of seeing this, but no matter -- if I did, I'd like to see it again. This is a timely post, Martin: Jean Kent turned 90 on June 29, looking wonderful and sounding strong.

Martin Edwards said...

Richmonde, it's a very good question!!

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Toyin O.

Martin Edwards said...

Philip, glad to hear that. It is a strong film, and I enjoyed it even more than I expected.