Directed by Robert Hamer
Written by Robert Hamer and Gore Vidal from a novel by Daphne Du Maurier
I was looking forward to seeing Alec Guinness in a dual role, and he is great as usual, but the movie left me a bit cold.
Jack Barrett (Guinness) is a bored, lonely, depressed professor of French at a provincial English university. While on his annual vacation to France, he meets his double Jacques de Gue (also Guinness) in a bar. Other than physically, Count de Gue is the Englishman’s polar opposite. He spends most of the night pumping Barrett with questions and plying him with liquor. Barrett, who is not accustomed to drinking much, quickly gets very drunk. De Gue takes him back to his hotel, where he drugs his nightcap. In the morning, de Gue and all of Barrett’s possessions are gone. De Gue’s chauffeur arrives and, believing a telegram stating that his master has developed schizophrenia, tricks Barrett to going to the count’s chateau.
Barrett can’t convince even de Gue’s own mother (Bette Davis) or wife that he is who he says he is. After awhile, he begins to play along and to enjoy life in the highly dysfunctional household and with the Count’s mistress. Turns out that the family and girlfriend actually like de Gue’s new “personality” far more than his usual one. Barrett sets about trying to rectify some of de Gue’s bigger sins. Before he can settle in too far, however, the reason for the deception becomes evident and Barrett is in bigger trouble than he dreamed.
Guinness is fine in a rather serious dual role, giving his characters nuanced differences rather than painting with comedy’s broad brush. The story, on the other hand, is a bit too gimmicky for my taste and drags through the set up to a rushed and unsatisfying ending.
Trailer – spoilers