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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Classic Film Review: An Inspector Calls (1954)

Based on the J.B. Priestley play, An Inspector Calls stars Alastair Sim as Inspector Poole, a mysterious detective who intrudes on a well-respected family in 1912 to inform them of the death of a poor girl. It transpires that all of the family knew the girl in some form or another, leading to secrets spilling out and the younger members of the family becoming convinced that things are irreparably altered for them. The film also stars Arthur Young as Mr Birling, Olga Lindo as Mrs Birling, Eileen Moore as Shelia, Bryan Forbes as Eric, Brian Worth as Gerald Croft and Jane Wenham as Eva Smith.

This is a brilliantly successful adaptation of the play which, while remaining faithful to the text, intersperses the dialogue with flashbacks to alter the location somewhat. It's a trade-off - you sacrifice watching the reactions of the characters for a little variety in setting - but it works. It assists what is otherwise a very static piece of writing to become a very good piece of cinema.

This was my first experience of Alastair Sim in a dramatic role and, actually, I'm wondering if he was wasted in all those comedies. He inhabits the character of the inspector so thoroughly that I won't be able to think of the role again without linking him to it. Sinister yet congenial, it's a fantastic performance that is easily the highlight of the film. That isn't to say, however, that the other actors are inferior. I particularly enjoyed Bryan Forbes as Eric, who has to run through a lot of emotions during his time on screen, and Eileen Moore as Shelia.

There are niggles, of course. Some of the flashbacks went on a little too long and the music jarred at times. Even so, this is an excellent adaptation of an excellent play, definitely worthy of a viewing.

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