DEAR MURDERER. General Films, UK, 1947; Universal, US, 1948. Eric Portman, Greta Gynt, Dennis Price, Jack Warner, Maxwell Reed, Hazel Court, Jane Hylton. Director: Arthur Crabtree.

   By one of those fruity coincidences that happen only in real life, I followed up Othello [with my comments posted here] with two movies about cuckolds driven to murder.


   The first of these, Dear Murderer, offers Eric Portman as a clever but self-deluded husband out to win back his wife’s affections by murdering her seducer — and getting the victim to help him plan the crrime.

   What follows is a twisty-turny cat-and-mouse game between the killer, his victim, his wife and the police, done with wit and sophistication in the vein of Dial M for Murder, which it pre-dated by five years.

   To say any more about the story would give away secrets, but I should mention that the writing, playing and direction are all first-rate.

   Based on a play by St John Legh Clowes, who adapted No Orchids for Miss Blandish for the screen, and scandalized England in the process, Murderer moves along beautifully, with a twist in the story every ten minutes or so, but it’s the acting that really gets attention: Eric Portman and Dennis Price play killer and victim as if they’d just stepped out of an Oscar Wilde comedy, with civilized manners that border on savagery.


   Maxwell Reed and Hazel Court offer a nice counterpoint as innocent lovers caught up in all this, and the real standout is Greta Gynt as a disputed-wife-cum-femme-fatale.

   Writer Clowes and actress Gynt take a standard noir figure and create a portrait, not so much evil as sinfully self-indulgent: delightfully annoyed at a plot that interrupts her own pleasure, and rather fetchingly flattered by the notion that her husband would kill for her.

   A compelling turn in a film I recommend highly.