An Inspector Calls (1954, Guy Hamilton)

For the majority of An Inspector Calls, I thought Alastair Sim’s delicate, thoughtful performance was out of place. The film’s incredibly melodramatic and contrived. After the twist ending… well, I’m pretty sure it’s still melodramatic and contrived, but it gives the impression of having an escape clause.

Regardless of title, it is not a mystery. Rather, it’s a British class piece (see the way I used the word “rather,” thought that choice was classy). But it’s a forceful class piece and not a subtle one. Subtlety probably would have helped some.

Even though he’s top-billed and he’s the best actor in the film, Sim is not the protagonist. He doesn’t even have the most screen time. But his every move is perfect.

Jane Wenham gets the most screen time and she’s good. Her role’s difficult, mostly because she never gets to act in a scene for herself; her scenes are always played for the other actor. Even when she’s alone in it.

Of the supporting cast, Eileen Moore and Bryan Forbes are good. Forbes is actually rather excellent, something not immediately clear because of the narrative structure. Brian Worth is sometimes good and sometimes bad. More bad than good. Both Arthur Young and Olga Lindo are comically bad. One has to wonder, especially at the end, if director Hamilton was instructing them to up the sinister.

Hamilton’s direction is solid and occasionally inspired. Francis Chagrin’s overblown score doesn’t help.

Sim’s great… but I’m not sure he makes it worthwhile.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Guy Hamilton; screenplay by Desmond Davis, based on the play by J.B. Priestley; director of photography, Edward Scaife; edited by Alan Osbiston; music by Francis Chagrin; produced by A.D. Peters; released by British Lion Film Corporation.

Starring Alastair Sim (Inspector Poole), Jane Wenham (Eva Smith), Brian Worth (Gerald Croft), Eileen Moore (Sheila Birling), Olga Lindo (Sybil Birling), Arthur Young (Arthur Birling), Bryan Forbes (Eric Birling), Norman Bird (Foreman Jones-Collins) and Charles Saynor (Police Sergeant Arnold Ransom).

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