blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Suspended Alibi (1956, Alfred Shaughnessy)

A scene from SUSPENDED ALIBI, directed by Alfred Shaughnessy for J. Arthur Rank Film Distributors.

Seeing as how I’ve actually written a scholarly paper on the British film industry (not of Suspended Alibi‘s era, but the early silents… and the observations, unfortunately, still hold), it’s sort of nice to be able to put some of the experience to use. As a country, Britain has produced a wealth of fine actors and–in modernity, some great filmmakers–but it’s a shock how awful the British can make films. It’s a question of competence in Alibi‘s case and the utter lack of it in some essential areas.

First, the director. Shaughnessy holds his shots forever, cuts (badly) to atrocious one shots, and makes bad camera moves through the terrible sets. The set decoration, something I almost never notice failing, is terrible. The wallpaper design does not film well on one of the main sets and, as for some of the less used ones, it’s even worse. One of the apartments looks like a hospital room. Amusingly, when they leave the room, there’s a jarring cut as the camera moves to what appears to be a real apartment building hallway. Shaughnessy can’t frame over the shoulder shots and his actors tend to stand around waiting for something to happen–but nothing ever does.

Second, the actor. Patrick Holt has to be one of the worst leading men I can think of (he’s not one of the wealth of British actors). Even though he’s playing an unlikable adulterer, Holt takes it to the next level–the film would have been far better if he’d been murdered instead of his false alibi. The rest of the cast, with some exception, is generally fine. Honor Blackman, as the ludicrously supportive wife, is actually quite good.

The movie opens with a neat trick–Holt’s creeping through the opening credits with a gun drawn only for a curtain to pull and reveal he’s playing cowboy and Indian with his son (in England?)–and I hope a better film stole it because it’s a reasonably deft move. But as far as film noir goes–bad film noir–the incompetent direction disqualifies Suspended Alibi. Even from the label.



Directed by Alfred Shaughnessy; written by Kenneth R. Hayles; director of photography, Peter Hennessy; produced by Robert Dunbar; released by J. Arthur Rank Film Distributors.

Starring Patrick Holt (Paul Pearson), Honor Blackman (Lynn Pearson), Valentine Dyall (Inspector Kayes), Naomi Chance (Diana), Lloyd Lamble (Waller), Andrew Keir (Sandy Thorpe), Frederick Piper (Mr. Beamster), Viola Lyel (Mrs. Beamster) and Bryan Coleman (Bill Forrest).


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