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Noirvember 2018, Episode 11: Murder by Proxy (1954)

Murder by Proxy (U.S. title Blackout) (1954)

Directed by Terence Fisher

Produced by Michael Carreras

Written by Richard Landau

Based on the novel Murder by Proxy by Helen Nielsen

Cinematography by Walter J. Harvey

Hammer Film Productions

Distributed by Lippert Pictures (U.S.), Exclusive Films (UK)

(1:27) Borrowed from a friend

Man: “The last time opportunity knocked at my door, I let her in.”

Woman: “What happened?”

Man: “Now I haven’t even got a door.”


Thus our introduction to the drunken American Casey Morrow (Dane Clark) and his drinking companion, the lovely young Londoner Phyllis Brunner (Belinda Lee). Although strangers at a London nightclub, the two seem to be getting along as well as could be expected, especially when one of them is sloshed. When Casey laments the fact that he’s flat broke, Phyllis tells him she’s got a job for him that pays £500: marrying her.

The next morning, Casey finds himself nursing a hangover in a strange woman’s apartment, but it doesn’t belong to Phyllis. Casey’s host is an artist named Maggie (Eleanor Summerfield), who helps sober him up. With a slightly clearer head, Casey soon makes two discoveries: he’s got £500 in his pocket and the newspapers report Phyllis Brunner as missing and her wealthy father murdered. If Casey dreamed the whole thing up, where did the £500 come from?

For at least the first half hour, Murder by Proxy delivers a compelling noir-stained mystery as Casey attempts to get to the bottom of what could be either incredibly bad luck or a complex frame-up. Clark is good in the role, but so many elements of the film strain the audience’s suspension of disbelief, including Casey’s attempts to think fast on his feet. The story has some nice moments and is worth a look if you’re a Dane Clark fan, otherwise you might consider watching this one by proxy.

Next time: a newspaper noir featuring a renowned director, an actor with over 300 screen/television credits, and an actual U.S. Senator. (Hint: one of these elements is a major disappointment.)

Photos: The Passing Tramp, RareFilm

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