The October Man


1h 38m 1947

Brief Synopsis

The survivor of a bus crash becomes a murder suspect.

Film Details

Also Known As
October Man
Genre
Drama
Mystery
Release Date
1947

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

Jim Ackland, who suffers from a head injury sustained in a bus crash , is the chief suspect in a murder hunt, when a girl that he has just met is found dead on the local common, and he has no alibi for the time she was killed.

Film Details

Also Known As
October Man
Genre
Drama
Mystery
Release Date
1947

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

The October Man


Following World War II, British films, similar to the trend in the U.S., moved away from the chin-up optimism against difficult odds reflected in its wartime movies toward something darker and more disturbing. As with the film noir genre that grew in postwar Hollywood, the British cinema produced more and more films that had a far grimmer and more alienated outlook on the homefront. Such themes would become a dominant force in the country's cinema of the 1950s, the age of the "angry young man" and "kitchen-sink" drama. But it was already prevalent enough when The October Man was released in October 1947 because Picturegoer magazine observed, "Scarcely a week passes without its new film of schizophrenia, paranoia, neurasthenia and the rest." This critically lauded thriller emerged from that atmosphere, using a murder mystery plot with a wounded hero that, while never directly referencing the war, might easily have been about the disorientation and adjustment difficulties faced by many returning veterans.

John Mills plays a man physically and psychologically damaged by a bus accident that puts him in the hospital for a year. Released into a world that feels unfamiliar and threatening-particularly so in his new residence in a seedy hotel where some of the boarders are malicious gossips-he struggles to follow the advice of his physician: "People will upset you at first; try not to let them." When he becomes a prime suspect in the investigation of a fellow boarder's murder, he cannot be sure where he was at the moment of the crime due to his recent head injury. As a result, he must fight his impulses toward violence and suicide and try to clear his name. The story's resolution does offer Mills' troubled character some hope of redemption in the form of honest work and the love of a good woman. But the world it portrays up to that point is no less bleak, and although the hero's wounds were not received in battle, it's possible to view The October Man as a metaphor for the damaged, disaffected soldier returning to a home that no longer feels like his own.

Roy Ward Baker (an assistant director to Hitchcock on The Lady Vanishes, 1938) and cinematographer Erwin Hillier (who was responsible for the breathtaking camera work on Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's I Know Where I'm Going, 1945) give The October Man an appropriate atmosphere by shooting almost exclusively in dark exteriors and dimly lit interiors. Critics also noted the effective use of such devices as a screeching train whistle and a white handkerchief (which figured prominently in the hero's accident) to convey tension and distress.

The script was adapted by Eric Ambler from his own novel. In addition to the screenplays he wrote for the World War II adventure The Cruel Sea (1953), and the drama based on the Titanic disaster, A Night to Remember (1958, also directed by Baker), Ambler is widely considered, along with W. Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene, as one of the leading novelists in the political thriller genre. Several films have been adapted from his books, including The Mask of Dimitrios (1944) and Topkapi (1964).

John Mills's performance in The October Man was praised for his ability to reveal, through a barely suppressed hysteria, both his character's inner torments and his efforts to control them. Unfortunately, the fine work he did in this and other pictures released around the same time, including Scott of the Antarctic (1948) and The Rocking Horse Winner (1950), was lost in a serious crisis for the British film industry brought on by the government. It's unfortunate because these three films could have brought him international renown. Instead, in August 1947, Parliament became embroiled in what were dubbed the "Bogart or Bacon" debates, a controversy precipitated by Britain's dire postwar financial straits and the high proportion of Hollywood films walking off with the British box office. The outcome was a 75 percent tax placed on American films imported into the country, a move meant to bolster the homegrown industry. But the Motion Picture Association of America responded with a boycott, derailing plans by J. Arthur Rank, then the leading producer of British movies, to increase their marketability abroad. On top of that, some big-budget flops produced by Rank, notably Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), drained the company of its profits and Rank of his influence. Mills had had a very advantageous contract with Rank that even allowed him to begin producing his own projects. Under Rank's predecessor, the contract was cancelled, and with the failure of two projects undertaken to stretch himself creatively, Mills found himself seeking any roles he could get to pay the bills. It wasn't until the 1970s that he was finally able to gain global prominence as a character actor recognized for his considerable skills, winning an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for Ryan's Daughter (1970).

Director: Roy Ward Baker
Producer: Eric Ambler
Screenplay: Eric Ambler, based on his novel
Cinematography: Erwin Hillier
Editing: Alan Jaggs
Art Direction: Alex Vetchinsky
Original Music: William Alwyn
Cast: John Mills (Jim Ackland), Joan Greenwood (Jenny Carden), Edward Chapman (Mr. Peachy), Kay Walsh (Molly Newman), Joyce Carey (Mrs. Vinton).
BW-96m.

by Rob Nixon
The October Man

The October Man

Following World War II, British films, similar to the trend in the U.S., moved away from the chin-up optimism against difficult odds reflected in its wartime movies toward something darker and more disturbing. As with the film noir genre that grew in postwar Hollywood, the British cinema produced more and more films that had a far grimmer and more alienated outlook on the homefront. Such themes would become a dominant force in the country's cinema of the 1950s, the age of the "angry young man" and "kitchen-sink" drama. But it was already prevalent enough when The October Man was released in October 1947 because Picturegoer magazine observed, "Scarcely a week passes without its new film of schizophrenia, paranoia, neurasthenia and the rest." This critically lauded thriller emerged from that atmosphere, using a murder mystery plot with a wounded hero that, while never directly referencing the war, might easily have been about the disorientation and adjustment difficulties faced by many returning veterans. John Mills plays a man physically and psychologically damaged by a bus accident that puts him in the hospital for a year. Released into a world that feels unfamiliar and threatening-particularly so in his new residence in a seedy hotel where some of the boarders are malicious gossips-he struggles to follow the advice of his physician: "People will upset you at first; try not to let them." When he becomes a prime suspect in the investigation of a fellow boarder's murder, he cannot be sure where he was at the moment of the crime due to his recent head injury. As a result, he must fight his impulses toward violence and suicide and try to clear his name. The story's resolution does offer Mills' troubled character some hope of redemption in the form of honest work and the love of a good woman. But the world it portrays up to that point is no less bleak, and although the hero's wounds were not received in battle, it's possible to view The October Man as a metaphor for the damaged, disaffected soldier returning to a home that no longer feels like his own. Roy Ward Baker (an assistant director to Hitchcock on The Lady Vanishes, 1938) and cinematographer Erwin Hillier (who was responsible for the breathtaking camera work on Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's I Know Where I'm Going, 1945) give The October Man an appropriate atmosphere by shooting almost exclusively in dark exteriors and dimly lit interiors. Critics also noted the effective use of such devices as a screeching train whistle and a white handkerchief (which figured prominently in the hero's accident) to convey tension and distress. The script was adapted by Eric Ambler from his own novel. In addition to the screenplays he wrote for the World War II adventure The Cruel Sea (1953), and the drama based on the Titanic disaster, A Night to Remember (1958, also directed by Baker), Ambler is widely considered, along with W. Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene, as one of the leading novelists in the political thriller genre. Several films have been adapted from his books, including The Mask of Dimitrios (1944) and Topkapi (1964). John Mills's performance in The October Man was praised for his ability to reveal, through a barely suppressed hysteria, both his character's inner torments and his efforts to control them. Unfortunately, the fine work he did in this and other pictures released around the same time, including Scott of the Antarctic (1948) and The Rocking Horse Winner (1950), was lost in a serious crisis for the British film industry brought on by the government. It's unfortunate because these three films could have brought him international renown. Instead, in August 1947, Parliament became embroiled in what were dubbed the "Bogart or Bacon" debates, a controversy precipitated by Britain's dire postwar financial straits and the high proportion of Hollywood films walking off with the British box office. The outcome was a 75 percent tax placed on American films imported into the country, a move meant to bolster the homegrown industry. But the Motion Picture Association of America responded with a boycott, derailing plans by J. Arthur Rank, then the leading producer of British movies, to increase their marketability abroad. On top of that, some big-budget flops produced by Rank, notably Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), drained the company of its profits and Rank of his influence. Mills had had a very advantageous contract with Rank that even allowed him to begin producing his own projects. Under Rank's predecessor, the contract was cancelled, and with the failure of two projects undertaken to stretch himself creatively, Mills found himself seeking any roles he could get to pay the bills. It wasn't until the 1970s that he was finally able to gain global prominence as a character actor recognized for his considerable skills, winning an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for Ryan's Daughter (1970). Director: Roy Ward Baker Producer: Eric Ambler Screenplay: Eric Ambler, based on his novel Cinematography: Erwin Hillier Editing: Alan Jaggs Art Direction: Alex Vetchinsky Original Music: William Alwyn Cast: John Mills (Jim Ackland), Joan Greenwood (Jenny Carden), Edward Chapman (Mr. Peachy), Kay Walsh (Molly Newman), Joyce Carey (Mrs. Vinton). BW-96m. by Rob Nixon

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