In this film, the premise is pretty simple. Clive Riordan, a wealthy London psychiatrist discovers his wife, Storm, is cheating on him with (dear God!) an American chap named Bill Kronin. (I love the way, in old movies, that when two people of the opposite sex have drinks together or go off to whatever unnamed location they do, it’s cheating because … the British Board of Film Censors. I guess.)
So he decides to play mind games with both of them.
Riordan kidnaps Kronin (that American chap) and locks him away in a secret room, shackled to the bed, no less. This leads to a big search for the missing man. Riordan gets his kicks out of making the occasional visit with his captive to torment him in various ways. Now and then, he crosses paths with a most persistent inspector from Scotland yard, a fellow named Finsbury. This provides several opportunities for Riordan to bloviate at length about how smart he is and what dumbasses other criminals are compared to him.
Now and then, just for kicks, he torments his wife, Storm. Just for something different.
Oh, and there’s this dog. He’s so cute. And he obviously is very much Kronin’s dog. In fact, he almost gives away the whole thing, by tracking Kronin down. This is after he got loose while Storm was taking him walkies. So, now Storm has lost the man she really loves and his damn dog. So, when she spots the dog again, it makes her so hopeful or something. However, Riordan is quick to assure her that she’s simply nutters seeing things.
And that’s pretty much it. The bad guy does a lot of posturing with the cops and gaslighting with the wife, plus the required tormenting of his prisoner. Until, well … all good things (for wacko shrinks) must come to an end, right?
In fairness, the film is quite suspenseful. There’s a claustrophobic feel to the setting, which is mostly limited to the Riordan residence, the secret room/prison, and Finbury’s office. Plus a few car parks and tunnels. A few exteriors of old crumbling housing and such. Oh, and Psycho Shrink’s lab-OH-ratory! Where he mixes up some corrosive chemicals in order to … clean up after he gets bored with the American guy.
The suspense and the dog won me over.
Those limited settings, of course, were to save money on making a fairly straightforward B-picture, but I kept thinking, “This must be based on a play,” because that’s the way it felt. However, it was actually based on a novel called A Man About a Dog by Alec Coppel. And the movie was called Obsession in Britain (and this is a British production), but released in the US under the name The Hidden Room.
I think Obsession is a better title, but I guess they changed it because they figured most Americans wouldn’t get it (or are just idiots). And I wonder which “they” we’re talking about. Hmm …?
A lesser-known film that’s worth a look. If only to watch this would-be Moriarty/Criminal Mastermind get his comeuppance! From Scotland Yard.
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Produced by Nat A. Bronstein and Kenneth Horne
Screenplay by Alec Coppel (based on the novel A Man About a Dog)