MAN IN THE ATTIC (DVD)

2 Stars
Year Released: 2006
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 82 minutes
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Lightning didn’t strike three times in this 1953 thriller, the third adaptation of Marie Belloc Lowndes’ Jack the Ripper-inspired novel “The Lodger.” Unlike Alfred Hitchcock’s atmospheric 1927 silent classic and the florid 1944 feature starring Laird Cregar, “Man in the Attic” is an inert offering with B-grade performances and precious little in the way of genuine heart-stopping moments.

A young Jack Palance, who had yet to succumb to his trademark breathy nuttiness, plays a peculiar pathologist in 1888 London. That Palance doesn’t bother with a British accent is fine, since most of the cast is pure California when they mumble their lines. Palance rents rooms from a cranky old man and his snooping wife – the latter is played by Francis Bavier, better known as Andy Griffith’s Aunt Bea, and she is completely awful in way that inspires unintentional giggles.

Through circumstances that could never happen in real life, suspicion falls on Palance as being Jack the Ripper. And all it takes is a pretty showgirl and her Scotland Yard admirer to lure him out of his sedate personality. Before the closing credits, Palance has his switchblade ready to cut up the town. No, it’s not a spoiler – there is absolutely no other direction this film could possibly go, due to its connect-the-dots story.

For the most part, the film is competently made – at least up until a horse-drawn carriage chase for a climax, where the obvious use of stunt doubles and rear projection effects dilutes the effectiveness. And there is also the guilty pleasure of two anachronistic musical numbers that look more like a 1953 nightclub review than an 1888 music hall presentation. Plus, seeing Palance before he turned into a raging ham offers a rare treat for those who care.



Posted on August 21, 2006 in Reviews by
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