I tuned into a classic movie this week that I had recorded on our trusty dvr and to my surprise, the film starred Long John Silver of Disney’s Treasure Island and Uncle Owen, of Star Wars! Of course the movie I watched, Obsession(British title) or The Hidden Room(US title) was made in 1949 when these two actors were a lot younger. Robert Newton, best known to Americans as the loud and dangerous, but somewhat lovable Long John Silver in Disney’s version of Treasure Island, was a revelation as the somber, subdued Dr. Clive Riordan, who becomes obsessed with his plan of ultimate revenge on his cheating wife’s latest lover.
American actor, Phil Brown, is great as Yank Bill Kronin the wife-stealer. He is a friendly tourist, quick witted and likes to use American slang, which proves to be a downfall for Dr. Riordan and provides a clue for Scotland Yard. Physically, Brown, when compared to Newton, isn’t quite as tall and looks a lot thinner, giving off the impression of a weakling, but mentally Brown’s Bill has to stay on top of his game in order to outwit mad Dr. Riordan.
The cheating wife, Storm Riordan( did British parents in the 1920s really name their daughters Storm???)played by Sally Gray, is beautiful but calculating and definitely cold to her husband. We don’t know why she has this penchant to cheat on him all the time nor why he hasn’t filed for divorce.
Another key cast member is a dog! Yes, a dog-“Monty”, a cute, white poodle. Not the large standard size, perhaps a toy poodle? I’m not quite up on my different levels of poodle sizes but one can tell that in this movie’s plot, Monty is Storm’s furry baby and he plays an important part in the survival of Kronin.
Scotland Yard inevitably gets called in on the case of the missing Bill Kronin and Naunton Wayne gives a great performance as Police Superintendent Finsbury. One might be tricked into thinking he’s going to bungle the case of the missing American, but his calm demeaner and perpetually good mood masks his brilliant mind in deducing just what the connection might be with the missing Kronin and Dr. Riordan.
Obsession was directed by Edward Dmytryk. He had been a successful Hollywood director but fell into the US House of Reps UnAmerican Hearings, searching for communists in the entertainment industry. Dmytryk was blacklisted so he moved his family to England and continued to direct movies there. Obsession was based on the book A Man About a Dog, written by Alex Coppel who also wrote the movie’s screenplay. Obsession is sometimes shown on TCM and it is available to buy on Amazon. A very kind soul has put the movie on Youtube.
Obsession has a slow build-up to it’s climax but one can see the craftmanship throughtout this well-developed movie. For a good crime film with a good ending, seek out Obsession.