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Mine Own Executioner

Mine Own Executioner

Nov. 22, 1947UK108 Min.APPROVED
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Video trailer

Director

Cast

Burgess Meredith isFelix Milne
Felix Milne
Dulcie Gray isPatricia Milne
Patricia Milne
Michael Shepley isPeter Edge
Peter Edge
Kieron Moore isAdam Lucian
Adam Lucian
Barbara White isMolly Sinclair Lucian
Molly Sinclair Lucian
Walter Fitzgerald isWalter Fitzgerald
Walter Fitzgerald
Edgar Norfolk isSir George Freethorne
Sir George Freethorne
John Laurie isDr. James Garsten
Dr. James Garsten
Martin Miller isDr. Hans Tautz
Dr. Hans Tautz

Synopsis

Fearing her husband could become a killer, a woman seeks a psychiatrist’s help.Pretty Molly Lucian enlists the reluctant aid of psychologist Felix Milne in treating her potentially homicidal husband Adam, who refuses to see a “real” psychiatrist. Traumatized in a Japanese prison camp, Adam proves to be on the verge of severe schizophrenia. In his risky struggle to help Adam, Felix finds his none-too-functional home life deteriorating, and is unable to help himself as he helps others. The situation rushes headlong to a suspenseful climax… Meredith shines in this underrated film that may be the finest depictions of the profession of psychotherapy ever made. He is first-rate as he portrays a therapist struggling with his personal flaws and profound doubts as to his effectiveness with clients. Exciting, well-written, superbly directed, and excellently filmed by cinematographer Freddie Francis, this will have a special significance to any counselor who has ever wondered if he or she was doing any good for themselves or anyone else. I saw this film first as a young boy and while I did not appreciate the subtleties in the script at the time, I found myself drawn to the character of the therapist. Eventually, I became one myself and perhaps this film planted the seed of interest in psychology and psychotherapy. When a film has that sort of impact, it is nothing less than a treasure.I have an impressive collection of 1940s movies on DVD but this one has hitherto eluded me.Full marks then to www.youtube.com for up-loading this missing gem of a film and thereby giving me a viewing pleasure.Yes I know that in the immediate post war years the fall out of physical and mental stress from combat affected returning servicemen and that apart from their physical wounds there was a need to treat their minds through psychiatry.Consequently the film industry produced quite a few movies portraying the recovery treatment to war veterans and civilians.Examples were “Spellbound”1946 “The Seventh Veil”1947 & “Since You Went Away “1944.

Dulcie Gray is in her familiar role of a put upon wife (as she played in “They Were Sisters”) but in this film she has more character & strength of mind when clumsily supporting her lay-psychiatrist husband (Burgess Meredith).I first saw the attractive Barbara White in “Quiet Weekend” (1946),the sequel to “Quiet Wedding”(1940) and here she has a grown up part playing Molly Sinclair Lucian.Kieron Moore plays her ill-fated mentally distressed war veteran husband, Adam Lucian, who is the main patient of Burgess Meredith.Nigel Balchin wrote the novel on which this screenplay was based.Another intelligent novel by him produced into a film was “The Small Back Room” produced the same year as “My Own Executioner”,(1947).This is an insanely underrated film, faithfully screenplayed by Nigel Balchin from his engrossing and subtle novel of the same name. After I saw the film back in the 80’s I trawled the pre-internet second hand bookshops to read as many of his other works as I could, including The Small Back Room, Fall Of The Sparrow, Sort Of Traitors, Sundry Creditors, and others more or less excellent too but none quite up to the standards here.

Non-medically trained psycho-analyst Felix Milne is involved with two practices (one paying and one for the poor) two women (one his wife one the woman he thinks he loves) and two important patients (one a potentially violent schizo and one himself). The schizo’s story is prised out under hypnosis, while the shrink’s story is prised out through events. And as usual where human emotions are rampant events spiral out of control to an unguessable outcome. Two points: there’s more of a story going on underneath the main story, there are many sub-dramas going on; and I think along with Obsession the film most perfectly captures the post War zeitgeist of a London pulling itself together again. In addition to a good story and good acting there’s some splendid photographic framing and atmospheric homely scenes to mull over, although the washed out copy I just saw didn’t really do it full justice – UK Channel 4 used to screen a decent copy so hopefully that will resurface someday. It’s a pity the main character had to become a Canadian – but it was probably more convincing than acidic Burgess Meredith playing an Englishman! Kieron Moore was a bit more wooden than he needed to be, however Dulcie Gray was so charming as Milne’s long-suffering wife she was almost a extra diversion.

Some people might deplore the lack of grittiness, sordidness, sex and yobbishness so it’s not for them – although there is one violent scene it would be handled far more graphically in colour hd cgi nowadays. It’s a film that’s obviously old-fashioned (as everything is sooner or later), wordy with people apparently with marbles in their mouths, thoughtful and thought-provoking on simultaneously simple and deep levels. I notice that at present there are no second opinions available on IMDb, that’s because it’s clearly an excellent and worthy film it’d be madness to dis.

Original titleMine Own Executioner
IMDb Rating6.9 207 votes
TMDb Rating7.1 5 votes

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