THE HYPNOTIST (1957)
aka Scotland Yard Dragnet
Article 2612 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-30-2008
Posting Date: 1-7-2008
Directed by Montgomery Tully
Featuring Paul Carpenter, Patricia Roc, Roland Culver
A test pilot moves in with a psychiatrist for treatment after he develops psychosomatic symptoms in the aftermath of miraculously surviving a crash. Complications ensue when a murder is committed in the apartment building where they’re staying.
The most striking thing in this movie is its structure; the first two-thirds of this movie plays out more like odd little drama than a mystery/thriller, so much so, in fact, that I began wondering if that was what it was. Still, two things kept me waiting for things to shift gears; one was the failure of fourth-billed William Hartnell (the first Doctor Who) to appear as a character, and the fact that I knew the alternate title of the movie was SCOTLAND YARD DRAGNET, and that nothing had occurred yet that would require the presence of Scotland Yard. Unfortunately, once the murder occurs, you’ll know why they waited so long. You’ll know almost within seconds who the culprit is and the modus operandi, and if you wait just a couple minutes more, you’ll get the motive practically handed to you on a silver tray. In short, mystery-wise, it’s a no-brainer, and though the movie could have milked some suspense from the possibility of the wrong man being accused of the murder, the movie fails to accomplish that either; the movie doesn’t have enough running time left to milk that kind of situation, nor do the police ever let us feel that the innocent man is the primary suspect, as they seem equally suspicious of his accuser. After a certain point, the movie itself seems to figure out that it’s not accomplishing anything, as it takes the first convenient opportunity to reveal all the truths that we’ve already figured out. It’s then you look back to the first two-thirds of the movie and realize just how much of it was thumb-twiddling; in particular, a long section where the patient wanders around the city in a partial-hypnotic daze and ends up at a jazz nightclub comes across as filler that has no impact on the story. For me, the biggest mystery was wondering who thought this story was worth filming. The fantastic content here is the presence of hypnotism (which, to give the movie credit, is used more thoughtfully than it usually is in a movie, a compliment I can’t give it in its simplistic view of psychiatry) and a certain horrific quality to the revelations about a traumatic incident in the patient’s life, which would have made a great scene had the movie used it effectively in the story.