003-dangerous-driving-1024x597Three years before his 007 tour of duty, Roger Moore portrayed a spiritually distressed businessman in this modestly creepy thriller. Even the script is suffering from schizophrenic problems. Is it a supernatural horror? Don’t ask me. Before you can say ‘doppelgänger’, Moore gets so confused he doesn’t know whether he’s Arthur or Martha. Or James.

A dull conservative business man named Harold Pelham (Roger Moore) is driving home from work one day when he does something extremely uncharacteristic. As if possessed, he removes his seat belt and drives terrifyingly fast, ultimately crashing his car. Later, while the unconscious Pelham is on an operating table his heart temporarily stops and it is only thanks to the speedy reactions of the doctors that he is revived. For a moment after his revival, something very strange happens – two heartbeats are briefly detected on the heart monitor.

The operating doctors simply assume that their equipment is faulty. A while later, the fully healed Pelham returns to his usual routines – family life, work, social life, etc. But soon weird events start to plague him – people claim to have spoken to him the week before even though he has been on holiday; people turn up for lunch at his house when he swears he hasn’t invited them; one man even pays up for losing a snooker match against him at the club, when in actual fact Pelham has no memory of playing the game.

man who haunted himself

At work a business opportunity involving a new electronic device is beset with problems as an alleged “mole” leaks details of the product to a rival company. Pelham begins to suspect that an impostor is trying to sabotage his life. Gradually, the awful truth becomes clear. When he died on the operating table and had to be resuscitated, a doppelgänger (or “alter ego”) was released…. and now the real Pelham and his sinister double are locked in a life-and-death struggle against each other.

A fairly gripping mystery thriller as the original Pelham has to solve the mystery of his double but this set-up is wasted as the climax is a disappointment, with no great twist and some surreal touches which are not in keeping with the rest of the film. I just would have liked a clever ending that tied everything together better. At just under ninety minutes the story has enough intrigue and mystery to keep you interested, although it has a fairly sedate pace.

Characters are alright but somewhat flat, nearly everyone around Pelham is very one-dimensional; his housebound wife, his secretary, his snooker playing friends, no-one here is fleshed out to any satisfaction or distinction. There are plenty of ugly old men with stuffy voices too. The whole ensemble is very dusty and quite repressed.

The Man Who Haunted Himself - Two Hats

Upper middle – class stuffed shirts twirling their bowler hats and looking forward to the next pink gin. “Why must we be so dreary and suburban?” moans Mr Pelham’s wife during a night out at the casino. Quite! “One gambler in the family is enough” retorts hubby in the driest of tones. Not earth shaking dialogue I will admit. But I really watched this not because its a cult classic, but because of the horribly dated fashions and interior design choices.

Its everything that would horrify today’s young or trendy people. I’d love to see the bowler hat, and all that awkward formality, make a comeback. British films of the 21st century are either painfully Americanized or politically correct to the point of anaemia. But in 1970 Britain was still the real deal. Our movies could add some old world charm to a tale. Plot was king and the only “theme” back then was to entertain in a reasonable and sensible manner. Yes, shocking wasn’t it?

A year after shooting The Man Who Haunted Himself, the director Basil Dearden was himself killed in a car accident near the spot where the fictional crash which begins this film took place. A coincidence… meanwhile, I’m off to find that bowler hat that my house keeper left somewhere in my spacious wardrobe. With any luck I’ll find the road to Narnia instead.



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