“The Naked Edge” (1961)

My Dad took me to a lot of good theatre movies in my formative years. I particularly remember going with him in my elementary years to a Robert Youngson Laurel and Hardy compilation featuring all the old silent comedians. And there were a couple of good UK films we saw together at the old Odeon Theatre off Portage Avenue (now the Burton Cummings Theatre). One was The Bridal Path (1959) which was a romantic comedy about a young Scot (played by Bill Travers) who travels Scotland in search of love.

The other was The Naked Edge which was rated in Europe for 15 and up. I saw it when I was 12 or 13 and it was an adult film in a number of ways: for seedy references, some intense scenes, and more graphic than the usual 1961 violence.

Gary Cooper starred in this, his last film; after shooting wound up, he was given a terminal cancer notice and he would be dead within months, ironically. He plays a businessman who becomes very and somewhat mysteriously wealthy after a robbery-murder at his former place of employment. His wife (played perfectly nervously by Deborah Kerr) comes to suspect that he killed his coworker, incriminated another, and became rich off the stolen money which was never recovered. Yet she continues to love him and, because of her need, she is even prepared to forgive him.

Well, appearances can be deceptive as the wife tries to obtain confirming evidence from others in involved in the case as her husband continues to act ambiguously and cannot conclusively convince her that he is innocent. A great conflict-plot which keeps the viewer. likewise, guessing up to the last 10 minutes and a powerful Hitchcockian ending screenplayed by Joseph Stephano who wrote Pyscho. (There are echoes of Hitchcock’s Suspicion throughout BTW)

Both Cooper and Kerr are well-cast and keep the main conflict and suspense going right up to the shock ending. Also in the mix is Eric Portman as the crooked sleazy book collector, Peter Cushing as the trial prosecutor, Diane Cilento as the wronged man’s cynical wife, Hermione Gingold as the chatterbox-friend who misbelieves the husband has been unfaithful to his wife, and Michael Wilding as the sleazy business partner putting moves on the wife when her husabnd is absent. All characters/actors are interesting and well-cast adding to the edge of this film.

The edgy black-and-white cinematography by Erwin Hillier majorly underscores the suspense and surprises of many scenes. In places, the cinematography reminds one of the cliff road scenes in Suspicion, the nightmare staircases of Piranesi, the mirrors of Psycho and even Citizen Kane with its continuous play of shadows and light. William Alwyn’s music is often too melodramatic, but does effectively add to the terror of some scenes anyway.

This thriller remains director Michael Anderson’s best film and is highly recommended. The video classification remains 15 because of the subject matter.

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