I love these old classics. They’re not going to give you nightmares but considering they didn’t really have a lot of blood and gore to play with in those days, Doris Day flicks in particular, they don’t do too badly with the old scare factor.
We begin in the London fog, the type of fog you only really get in movies. Doris Day is walking home, minding her own business when suddenly a creepy sing-song voice, which she later describes as “like a puppet”, calls her name, “Mrs Preston…over here Mrs Preston.” She cannot see anyone but he then threatens to kill her before the month is out. She runs home passed some building works which helpfully display a sign with the word DANGER in big red letters. Love it.
Mr & Mrs Preston have been married for only 3 months and already she is feeling neglected. She tells her husband (Rex Harrison) what happened to her and he dismisses it as a practical joke. Here we see the first of the anti-British references with the “that’s just what these Londoners do.” Going on to joke about the research they will go into to give someone a good scare. I won’t dwell on this too much but it is interesting that all the friendly characters are her fellow Americans, but this is nothing new. On the other side this may be a vehicle for showing how isolated she is in a foreign country. You decide.
When the prank calls start we no longer hear the voice, I’m guessing this is to heighten the tension in the end scene, but also because Doris Day tells of the caller talking “filth” to her. I’m not sure what this low-down scoundrel thinks he’s playing at by talking filth to Doris Day, but here we are allowed to make up our own minds about what he is saying. Or our own filth, if you will.
Pretty soon we are presented with some prime suspects; the money grabbing Malcolm (Roddy MacDowell); scary-eyed property developer, Brian (John Gavin, Psycho) who always seems to be hanging around; creepy man with a scar on his cheek who seems to be following her…
All in all this is a pretty good example of the gaslighting theory. Yes, the clues are obvious and yes, it’s blatantly trying to pull off a Hitchcock but the performances are sound. And when the perpetrator is finally revealed he becomes suitably twitchy, as you would expect any heavy breather worth his salt to be.
“No, I’m not alone! My maid is here!”
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