Saturday, April 1, 2017

Vicious Circle (1957)

Vicious Circle, also released as The Circle, is a 1957 British crime thriller with a screenplay by Francis Durbridge.

When you see Francis Durbridge’s name on the credits you expect a convoluted plot, which is exactly what this film boasts. You also expect the plot to be skillfully constructed, and again that’s precisely what you get here. 

It starts in very typical Durbridge fashion. You take a very ordinary fellow and plunge him into a nightmare vortex of fear and suspicion. In this case the ordinary chap is Harley Street specialist Dr Howard Latimer (John Mills). Dr Latimer sees a patient who has a very odd story to tell - she found a dead body in a park but the body later disappeared. Still, patients with odd stories to tell are not all that unusual. On the same day he is asked by an American friend to meet a German film star at London Airport. named Geoffrey Windsor, a reporter who had wanted to interview him, offers him a lift to the airport. A busy day but nothing really special.

And then he gets back to his flat and finds a dead woman there. This body does not disappear. Latimer’s problem is that it seems that no-one is able (or willing) to back up any part of his story. Even worse it appears that some of the people he is relying on to back up his story don’t seem to exist. No newspaper in Fleet Street will admit to any knowledge of a reporter named Geoffrey Windsor. All of this naturally arouses the suspicions of Detective Inspector Dane (Roland Culver).

All of Latimer’s efforts to make sense of the mystery just leave him more confused and more desperate. To top it all off there’s a mysterious character called Brady (Wilfred Hyde-White) trying to blackmail him.

John Mills was at the top of his form in the 50s. The movies he made during this decade have mostly aged rather well, partly due to his very natural and rather laid-back style (although he could be intense when intensity was called for). His performances were always utterly convincing. Apart from MiIls this film boasts some remarkably fine actors among the supporting cast. Derek Farr as Latimer’s buddy Kenneth Palmer, Mervyn Johns as his colleague Dr Kimber and Noelle Middleton as his girlfriend Laura give fine performances. Wilfred Hyde-White is wonderful as always and Roland Culver sparkles as the remorseless but rather sympathetic Inspector Dane.

It’s the acting that to a very large degree carries this film. British film-makers really did had an extraordinary array of acting talent to draw upon at this time.

Producer Peter Rogers and director Gerald Thomas are best remembered for the Carry On comedies but in the 50s they were responsible for a number of successful thrillers. Thomas certainly can’t be faulted for the job he does here. He (perhaps wisely) doesn’t try anything too fancy.

I guess this movie could be considered to be vaguely in the Hitchcock style, although more low-key and lacking the spectacular visual set-pieces. The theme of the ordinary guy dragged into mystery and danger of which he has no clear comprehension works pretty well.

This movie is included in the Region 2 John Mills Centenary Collection DVD boxed set. It gets a very good transfer although there’s not much in the way of extras. 

Vicious Circle is a well-crafted mystery thriller, typical of the solid productions of the 1950s British film industry. A treat for Durbridge fans. Highly recommended.


  1. I've not seen this one, but I notice that the DVD collection you mention includes The Long Memory - which i liked so much I bought the book!

    Another DVD box set to add to the queue!

    1. I haven't watched The Long Memory yet but I look forward to it.

    2. Saw this only tonight. Good film, though I'm not sure what Mrs Ambler's story added to it.