Thursday, 12 February 2015
The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970)
To bide his time between the conclusion of ITC series The Saint in 1969 and the start of ITC series The Persuaders! in 197, Roger Moore completed two films that carried much of the ITC ethos; brisk and professional affairs that provided sheer unadulterated entertainment with the emphasis on action and suspense.
The first film Crossplot was released in 1969 to largely middling/negative reviews. A straightforward light thriller, many critics saw it as an all too obvious attempt to emulate Moore's TV persona of The Saint on the big screen where James Bond (a role Moore had still yet to take) ruled supreme. Undeterred, Moore teamed up with director Basil Dearden a year later for another film based on Anthony Armstrong's 1957 novel The Strange Case of Mr Pelham which had previously been filmed as an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. This was an altogether more successful piece, though poor marketing meant it became a sleeper cult classic rather than an out and out instant hit.
Moore plays against type as the uptight City worker Harold Pelham who, on driving home from the office one evening appears to become possessed resulting in a high speed crash. Despite briefly suffering clinical death on the operating table, Pelham awakes to a full recovery but discovers his life has become a mass of contradictions. People claim to have seen him in places he knows he has not visited. He now supports a merger that he once opposed, and is apparently having an affair despite having a patient loving wife and two young sons at home. When he starts to notice a silver Lamborghini Islero (pictured below, car porn lovers) stalking him, Pelham begins to wonder if he has a doppelgänger, or is he actually going insane?
Roger Moore is on record as saying this is his personal favourite from all his films and its easy to see why - it actually allows him to act! Given such an opportunity Moore does not disappoint, depicting a genuinely affecting performance of a man who starts to doubt his own sanity. It's a role that is a world away from that of Simon Templar and other roles Moore was and would become famous for. With his most celebrated role in mind, it's really strange to hear Pelham reference 007 at one point!
The Man Who Haunted Himself is in short an underrated gem of a film, utterly likeable thanks to its 1970s period trappings and its distinct, unusual and suspenseful plot. It really does deserve its cult status but, if it were successful on initial release, who knows what turn Moore's career may have taken...would he have gone on to do The Persuaders! the role which ultimately secured him the James Bond films? Who knows.