Paranoiac (1963) reviews and overview

 
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‘Shocking! Horrifying! Macabre!’

Paranoiac – aka Paranoiac! – is a 1963 British horror thriller feature film directed by Freddie Francis (Nightmare; Hysteria; The Skull). The screenplay was written by Jimmy Sangster, based loosely on the 1949 crime novel, Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey. The Hammer Films production stars Janette Scott, Oliver Reed, Sheila Burrell, Alexander Davion, Liliane Brousse.

Plot:

Simon Ashby (Oliver Reed) is trying to drive his sister, Eleanor (Janette Scott) insane, so that he can inherit the estate of their deceased parents. But when a mysterious man (Alexander Davion) appears, claiming to be their long-lost brother Tony, Simon’s plans are thwarted. Simon vows to get revenge on the man and eliminate his sister in the process.

Eight years earlier, when Tony was a youth, he had left a suicide note and had apparently jumped off a seacoast cliff, but his body had never been recovered. A grown man resembling Tony appears, claiming that he had simply run away. Eleanor wants to believe that the man is Tony. Harriet Ashby (Sheila Burrell), their Aunt, is immediately hostile and calls the man an impostor. Simon pretends to be more open-minded about the situation…

oliver reed in paranoiac

Reviews [click links to read more]:

Paranoiac loses steam during its third act and is capped with an abrupt ending that leaves too many loose ends untied. Despite these flaws, Paranoiac remains a worthwhile thriller with enough chills and atmosphere to please fans of old-fashioned horror.” All Movie

” …the UK Blu-ray from Masters of Cinema looks absolutely stunning. The sharpness, the quality is absurd. I have never seen a Hammer production look so good before … It’s in black and white, low-key in both performances and story and relies heavily on a brilliant and simple, but yet effective, script by Jimmy Sangster.” Ninja Dixon

Paranoiac is a hypnotic and eerie film that features phenomenal black and white cinematography by Arthur Grant … Sure there are some huge plot holes and loads of melodrama but who cares when you’ve got Janette Scott in a flowing nightgown wandering the grounds of the estate under a day-for-night filter while chasing the phantom of the brother who she totally has inappropriate feelings for.” Doomed Moviethon

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“One of the most striking things about Psycho is the performance of Anthony Perkins, who plays a character with a full range of human emotions; an equivalent character here is played by Oliver Reed, but the only emotion he seems to give his character is one of violent intensity, and though he is quite good at displaying this emotion, it becomes tedious over the full length of the movie.” Fantastic movie Musings and Ramblings

“The proceedings are livened up by a decent cast, with Oliver Reed being the shining star. Oh, he may not always provide subtlety and nuance, but Reed has charm and charisma in abundance. He dominates any scene that he’s in, and the film is all the better for it (as it’s in line with his character anyway). Scott is just fine in a more restrained role…” For It Is Man’s Number

“Twists and turns abound in this gripping chiller that fuses an Agatha Christie-type mystery with gothic horror scares – particularly a ‘what the Hell’ moment involving the family chapel, a wheezing organ and a very creepy masked figure – and adding a dash of fratricide, incest and insanity for good measure.” Kultguy’s Keep

Blu-ray releases:

On 20 November 2017, Final Cut Entertainment released Paranoiac as a Blu-ray + DVD combo.

Buy: Amazon.co.uk

On 26 July 2010 a Eureka Classics “Masters of Cinema’ Blu-ray and DVD was released in the UK. The Blu-ray contains a restored Cinemascope high-definition transfer, optional music and effects track, the long-unseen original trailer, and high-definition stills gallery of rare materials.

paranoiac british blu-ray

Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

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Janette Scott drinking tea in the shower in Paranoiac production still

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Cast and characters:

Janette Scott … Eleanor Ashby
Oliver Reed … Simon Ashby
Sheila Burrell … Aunt Harriet
Maurice Denham … John Kossett
Alexander Davion … Tony Ashby
Liliane Brousse … Françoise
Harold Lang … RAF Type
Arnold Diamond … Publican
John Bonney … Keith Kossett
John Stuart … Williams
Sydney Bromley … Tramp (uncredited)
Laurie Leigh … Woman #1 (uncredited)
Marianne Stone … Woman #2 (uncredited)
Colin Tapley … Vicar (uncredited)
Jack Taylor … Sailor (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, England

Technical details:

80 minutes
Black and white
Aspect ratio: 2.35: 1
Audio: Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Trivia:

The Indian film Phir Wahi Raat (1980) was apparently inspired by Paranoiac.

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