The Brighton Strangler (1945)
New Years Eve, a foggy night, Big Ben and a romantic couple on a rooftop where the young woman is about to uncover a deadly secret.
“There will be no New Year for you. You’ll go out with the old one.”
So says actor John Loder portraying famed actor of the stage Reginald Parker. He’s been starring as the title character in a successful play in England during the air raids of WW2. After a long run the play is shutting down as the season is over and Loder plans on joining his wife in the country for a restful break from the rigors of fame.
After the theater has emptied Loder remains when German planes begin dropping bombs on the city. The theater suffers extensive damage and with some high quality effects Loder is struck down sustaining a serious head injury. As he comes to the lines begin to blur between reality and his stage role of Edward Grey aka The Brighton Strangler.
Wandering through the streets he happens upon a stranger who innocently asks a question that is also a line from the play. This shifts his mind towards fully assuming the wrong identity. The plot is set in motion.
Loder winds up connected to a young couple played by June Duprez and Michael St. Angel in a village outside of England. He’ll mistake long time character actor Ian Wolfe as a magistrate who put him away years ago and the films first killing takes place. Up until this point I wasn’t really sure if this RKO production was going to go quite this far. Now there’s no turning back.
The town constable is seeking out a killer and other than the new stranger in town he has no leads. On the surface Loder’s new identity is that of a gentle man passing himself off as a writer and Miss Duprez thinks him a perfectly nice individual. Her hubby St. Angel isn’t quite so sure.
Loder will murder again during the film’s brief 67 minute running time and it’s by pure coincidence that will lead St. Angel to the authorities and in turn pursuit of Loder along with the police. Can he arrive in time to prevent the next victim?
This proved to be a nifty little “B” programmer that was more than worthy of my 67 minutes. While I knew where the film was headed I wasn’t sure it was going all in towards the murder angle. It did and it easily held my attention.
In one of those “what if” moments I thought that if only Val Lewton had gotten hold of this it may have a better reputation. The plot plays like one of his thrillers and it was during this time that he had Boris Karloff working alongside with him. Not much of a stretch to see Boris in the role bringing to it that sense of grandiose. As it stands it was directed by Max Nosseck under the guidance of Producer Herman Schlom.
Then again on the flip of a coin it could have been a Monogram potboiler with Mr. Zucco or Poor Bela. Sorry boys. No offence meant as I have seen most of your Monogram library of titles and will probably revisit them again.
It’s also worth mentioning that this plot line is somewhat similar to that of Ronald Colman’s Oscar winning turn in A Double Life where his stage role began to dominate his own being away from the footlights. This beat Colman’s film to the screen by a couple of years though I have no idea of the gestation period of the Oscar winner.
Worth a look for fans of the B category. Turns up on TCM occasionally. Give it a look.