Short Ends and Leader

'The Accursed' (1958)

You hate it when that happens.


The Accursed

Director: Michael McCarthy
Cast: Donald Wolfit, Robert Bray
Distributor: Warner Archive
Rated: Not rated
Year: 1958
USDVD release date: 2013-08-13

Former members of a WWII German Underground or resistance group meet annually at the British mansion of their one-armed leader (Donald Wolfit), and this year they will try to determine which among them was a spy who betrayed their previous leader to the Nazis. Wolfit seems like a terrible leader, as the first thing he does is go along with his hireling's reluctance not to tell him vital information over the phone but wait until he arrives at the house--and you know what that means. He also makes the blunder of announcing to the assembly that this fellow is on his way with the big secret--d'oh! Just as a point of interest, when we finally learn what this information is, it's even more nonsensical that the man didn't want to say it over the phone.

Anyway, these transparent bits of plot-foolery lead to a night of literal backstabbing in what amounts to a claustrophobic drawing-room mystery in an old dark house. Fortunately, an American Military Intelligence officer (Robert Bray) barges in to take over the investigation, and he naturally makes time with the only pretty woman (Jane Griffiths) in the group. Christopher Lee, with a convincing German accent, is among the suspects, as is the distinctive Anton Diffring as a neurotic pianist.

The overheated American title (the original British title is The Traitor) matches the overwrought delivery at which the acting is pitched as everyone bristles with tension. This tone keeps the absurd proceedings amusing and watchable, and the last five minutes are interesting. Written and directed by Michael McCarthy (better at the latter than the former), this British film was picked up for U.S. distribution by Allied Artists (formerly Monogram), and the print seems a bit worn from its transatlantic crossing; it's now available on demand from Warner Archive.

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