THE UPTURNED GLASS. General Film Distributors, UK, 1947. Universal-International, US, 1947. James Mason, Rosamund John, Pamela Mason (as Pamela Kellino), Ann Stephens, Brefni O’Rorke. Screenplay: John Monaghan and Pamela Kellino, based on a story by the former. . Director: Lawrence Huntington. Currently streaming on the Criterion Channel as part of their “gothic noir” collection.

   Dr. Michael Joyce, played quite earnestly and effectively by James Mason in one of his last few films he made in the UK, is not only a noted brain surgeon, but he often gives lectures at the university as an expert in criminology. It is in the latter role that the movie begins. The theme for his presentation is that murders can be done for rational reasons by people who are quite sane. To demonstrate the point, he tells the students of just such an instance.

   It quickly becomes apparent to the viewers that the killer in the story he tells is himself, related almost entirely in flashback. It’s an unusual structure for telling a tale, narrating as he does how it all came about, with himself playing the primary character. After he saves a young girl from going blind, he finds himself falling in love with the child’s mother, whose husband’s job keeps him long distances from home for long periods of time.

   Realizing the probable folly of their ways, they break off the affair. Soon thereafter, however, the woman in the case is found dead, having jumped to her death (possibly an accident) from a second floor window to a brick courtyard below. Joyce has another thought. Could she have been pushed? And could the pusher be the dead woman’s sister-in-law? And if so, should Joyce take matters into his own hands?

   All of the above takes up perhaps the first two-thirds of the movie, which while academically interesting is also as slow as molasses on a chily day. But with thirty minutes to go, the story suddenly shifts, catching the unwary viewer by surprise (me), and the noir nature of tale clicks in.

   It’s almost good enough to make the first hour or so worth the wait. I’m still thinking about that. If it hadn’t been James Mason in the part, twenty minutes would have more than enough time to start thinking about finding something else to do.

   And in any case, the ending does make a good fit with the beginning. Go back and read the first paragraph of this review again.

   Various reviewers on IMDb have tried to explain the title, with varying but probably futile success. The movie began its life as a story about the Bronte sisters, but when they decided it wasn’t working, they scrapped the whole thing and rewrote it from scratch, keeping only the title.