HOME AT SEVEN. British Lion Film Corp., 1952. Released in the US as Murder on Monday, 1953. Ralph Richardson, Margaret Leighton, Jack Hawkins, Campbell Singer, Michael Shepley, Margaret Withers. Based on a play by R.C. Sherriff. Director: Ralph Richardson.

  [Before reading the review that follows, you may wish to go back to Dan’s earlier comments on Interrupted Journey, reviewed here.   —Steve.]

HOME AT SEVEN Ralph Richardson

   That scene toward the end of Interrupted Journey came strongly to mind as I watched another British Film, Home at Seven, the only film ever directed by Sir Ralph Richardson, and a pleasant surprise from start to finish.

   When Great Actors turn to Directing Fillums, they often get a bit mannered. Sometimes unbearably so. I’m reminded of Laurence Harvey’s awful The Ceremony and John Wayne’s ponderous The Alamo. Even films I rather enjoy, such as Olivier’s Hamlet and Brando’s One-Eyed Jacks suffer from a certain amount of self-conscious narcissism.

   Which is why I was so charmed by Home at Seven’s unpretentious spontaneity. From start to finish, it’s a quiet, workmanlike job of entertainment never flashy — boasting fine performances from Richardson (always a delight to watch) Margaret Leighton and Jack Hawkins.

HOME AT SEVEN Ralph Richardson

   I can tell a little about the plot this time: Richardson plays a Bank Clerk who returns home from work one night — carrying the evening paper; promptly at Seven as usual — to find his wife in tears. His first impulse is to soothe her, of course, and when she tells him he’s been missing for the last 24 hours, he poohpoohs the notion, pointing out that he’s clean, shaved, his clothes not slept in, and carrying the Monday Paper: Hardly the appearance of a man who’s lost a day.

   Surely, he tells her, it must have been a dream she had while napping. Must stop working so hard, and all that. At which point he discovers that it’s Tuesday’s Paper he’s holding.

   It’s an intriguing notion to start a film with, and it gets better as Richardson discovers that money he was responsible for is missing and a close associate is dead. Very swiftly, the film becomes another paranoid nightmare, on the order of Interrupted Journey, but done with just a touch more realism and consideration to character.

HOME AT SEVEN Ralph Richardson

   Unlike the characters in most thrillers, everyone in Home at Seven seems perfectly real and very likable: Richardson’s Average-Guy Hero, his fretful wife, Jack Hawkins’ sympathetic Doctor and even someone named Campbell Singer as an apologetic but insistent Police Inspector. One gets a real sense of ordinary people who’ve had some awful intrusion into their lives and can’t figure how to cope with it.

   There is a stunningly effective scene in Home at Seven where Richardson and his wife are at home and he thinks the Police are coming to arrest him for Murder. Sound familiar? I thought so too. But wait; Feeling the Long Arm of The Law at his back, Richardson sits down with his wife at the kitchen table and quietly begins to explain to her how to do the Accounts.

   It’s a moment all the more touching for its restraint with both of them trying hard not to cry as they deal with the commonplace aspects of a nightmare, and it shows a sensitivity and intelligence that are just too rare in the Film Thriller.

HOME AT SEVEN Ralph Richardson