The October Man (GFD 1947 with John Mills and Joan Greenwood)
UK / GFD – Two Cities / 98 minutes / 1947 black and white
Writer and Producer: Eric Ambler, from his novel / Cinematography: Erwin Hillier / Director: Roy Ward Baker
Cast: John Mills, Joan Greenwood, Edward Chapman, Joyce Carey, Kay Walsh, Adrienne Allen, Catherine Lacey, Frederick Piper, Felix Aylmer
Novelist Eric Ambler made a skilful and tense screen adaptation of his own novel and co-produced the thriller (with Filippo del Guidice) and, wrote the Daily Mirror, ” The October Man is a whodunit that is different – a picture about real people in a rural English setting which grips from start to finish”.
John Mills, excellent in the role, is The October Man , having developed suicidal tendencies after an accident in which a child was killed and he sustained brain injuries. He is discharged after a year in hospital, returns to his job as a research chemist, and moves into a gradually decaying hotel in west London. There he is befriended by model Kay Walsh which arouses the animosity of fellow-boarder Edward Chapman who dislikes her. Mills starts a romance with Joan Greenwood, the sister of his colleague Patrick Holt.
Then, shortly after lending money to Walsh, she is found strangled. Mills is suspected and the real killer, Chapman, begins to taunt him and Mills starts to crack up.
Ambler’s cunningly constructed screenplay received taut and accomplished direction from Roy Ward Baker whose subsequent career included a stint in Hollywood in the 1950s and a period in horror movies for Hammer. Said The Daily Mail : “A new director, Roy Baker, makes a conspicuous debut, and shows he understands the dramatic value of silences as well as how to work up to a shrill climax”.
Appearing with Mills in the opening scenes is his daughter Juliet making her third film appearance since her debut, aged one, in 1942’s In Which We Serve .