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The Third Secret (1964)

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Leaning towards Hitchcock with a dash of Hammer and an arty feel doesn’t help this well cast thriller that in the end plays far to melodramatically.

Stephen Boyd leads the cast of this black and white effort from director Charles Crichton. He’s playing an American news anchor stationed in England. His analyst has committed suicide although it appears rather suspicious. The dead man’s daughter played by Pamela Franklin approaches Boyd to find the truth and bring her fathers’ killer to justice.

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Boyd himself can’t believe the man killed himself and takes the bait. He comes to the conclusion that the killer has to be a patient like himself. Franklin passes on a list of the people he had been treating as of late.

This takes Boyd on a journey allowing the producers to sprinkle in some top line talent. First up on the list is Richard Attenborough. He’s rather grotesquely made up under a fair bit of make up. It’s not a stretch to seeing him turn up as the killer at the fade out.

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Next up is Diane Cilento. She’s a troubled soul who easily finds herself falling into Boyd’s arms. That takes care of the romantic slant for the production.

Our third name on the list and coming off best in the acting department is Jack Hawkins. If there’s a scene in the film that makes it worth catching, this is it. Hawkins is a magistrate who fences with Boyd and is left in a state of disrepair after their confrontation. Given the right material, Jack Hawkins is pure pleasure to watch on screen.

Things kind of go full circle but may not end up where you think. It’s all done reasonably well but is far from special. I hate to pick on Boyd but too much of his performance seems forced and over the top at times while the next minute he appears to be sleep walking. Frankilin is a bit young here and I think could have done with a surer hand guiding her as well.

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Keep your eyes on Attenborough’s art gallery assistant. Yes it’s really Judi Dench. Another actor who was a regular face in many a British production turning up here is Nigel Davenport.

For fans of the leading actors, I can’t fault you for checking this out. For others I would suggest sticking with something like Spellbound or even one of Hammer’s psychological thrillers like Paranoiac. There way more fun.

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2 Comments »

  1. I always kind of liked this film – no problems with Boyd here – but I do know what you mean. Everything is polished and as it should be but it’s dour and there’s not the sense of fun a film like this needs to touch on at some point.

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