The Ringer (1952) | A starry cast makes this vintage Edgar Wallace thriller worth a revisit
When the sister of criminal mastermind The Ringer is found drowned, unscrupulous lawyer Maurice Meister (Herbert Lom) is blamed and Scotland Yard suspect The Ringer is out to kill him. Meister hires an ex-con (William Hartnell) as his bodyguard, while the Yard put the house under surveillance. But can they unmask The Ringer (who is a master of disguise) before he succeeds in his quest for vengeance?
WHAT’S THE BEST SHOW IN LONDON?
You’ll be baffled as to why Scotland Yard fail to unmask Donald Wolfit’s forensics expert Dr Lomond as The Ringer as soon as he makes his appearance in this 1952 British thriller, especially considering the phoney accent and obvious makeup. But given it’s based on the oft-performed 1925 play, The Gaunt Stranger, by famed crime writer (and original King Kong scribe) Edgar Wallace, and had been filmed a number of times in its wake, 1950s audiences were probably already familiar with the story and just wanted to see the update for its gallery of classy character actors, which included an eloquent Herbert Lom as slimy lawyer Meister, a pre-Doctor Who William Hartnell as his Cockney rhyming bodyguard and, of course, Wolfit, whose master criminal gets to fool London’s finest even after his unmasking. And providing the colour to the black and white who-will-do-it is a young Denholm Elliott and a ravishing Mai Zetterling as young lovers caught up in the intrigue, and Dora Bryan as Hartnell’s hilarious high-pitched wife.
It might be predictable and stagy for modern audiences, but what makes the vintage thriller worth a revisit is seeing these great British characters actors going full throttle with Val Valentine and Lesley Storm’s wordy script. The other reason of course is that it also marks the directorial debut of Guy Hamilton, who’s best known for lensing four James Bond films. The Ringer may not be in the same league as those iconic British films, but Hamilton does do an efficient job in racking up the tension of this filler thriller.
THE UK RELEASE
Network Distributing DVD release, part of their British Film collection, is presented in a brand-new transfer from original film elements in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio, and includes an image gallery and promotional material (pdf) as extras.
Posted on January 27, 2014, in British Film, Might-See and tagged British Film, Charles Victor, Denholm Elliott, Doctor Who, Donald Wolfit, Dora Bryan, Edgar Wallace, Guy Hamilton, Herbert Lom, Mai Zetterling, Might See, Network Distributing, The Edgar Wallace Mysteries, The Gaunt Stranger, The Ringer, William Hartnell. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.