It’s the Moore the merrier as Roger pulls double duty in The Man Who Haunted Himself

The Man Who Haunted Himself Review
Score 6
The Man Who Haunted Himself Review
This post is written as part of @noir_or_never and @realweegiemidge‘s Bond Not Bond Blogathon

Prior to taking up the mantle of James Bond, Roger Moore had never been considered one of the acting greats – even by himself – but he did have an undeniable star quality along with a quintessentially English suaveness which served him well as a big-screen movie star. Little wonder, then, that THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF ranks amongst his favourite movies because it probably boasts his best acting performance of his long and illustrious career.

Wealthy and conservative (with a small c) business Harold Pelham (Roger Moore) is as dull and dutiful as they come, an unremarkable executive for Freeman, Pelham & Dawson, a marine technology company currently in the throes of merger discussions. During a drive home, though, something seems to come over him and his driving suddenly becomes erratic and aggressive, resulting in a car crash – a crash that has far-reaching consequences for Harold and those who know him

Long before Russell T Davies hit upon the leitmotif of a double heartbeat portending the drama to come, this film adaptation of Anthony Armstrong’s novel “The Strange Case of Mr Pelham”, itself a variation on the themes of “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” used it to terrific effect. Directed by Basil Dearden, in what was to be his last film, there’s a macabre note of foreshadowing in his own death mimicking the manner and even approximate location of the fictional Pelham’s accident on screen.

Unfortunately, the film itself doesn’t serve as much of a swansong for Dearden and visually it feels dated and dull even by the standards of the 1970s. He somehow manages to capture a London – only recently reinvigorated by the swinging sixties – as the most mundane, beige and ugly conurbation of the day. Make no mistake, this is an ugly and cheap-looking film, directed with televisual flatness and it’s only Moore’s remarkably committed performance – or should that be performances – which make it a worthwhile watch.

While its roots in Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic classic are obvious, there’s a much more modern air of BLACK MIRROR about THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF, as Moore begins to suspect there is an imposter disrupting his life only to come to realise the truth is stranger than he can possibly imagine. In less assured hands, the script – which constantly teeters on the edge of comedy and even potentially farce – could have fallen very flat but Moore knows exactly what he’s doing and Pelham’s increasingly frayed and fractured psyche is brilliantly brought to life, as is the more assured – and remarkably Bond-like – alternative personality who is rising up from the subconscious depths to assert his dominance.

It never really explains how or why Pelham’s life bifurcated in the first place and some of the logistics of the (slightly rushed) finale seem to break the movie’s own rules but THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF works as a kind of feature-length TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED, with a memorable performance by Roger Moore suggesting that his oft-ridiculed restricted range was the result of deliberate choice and not limited ability.

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3 Comments

  1. Realweegiemidget Reviews December 18, 2021

    I love Moore and the doppelganger film genre, because I grew up with Knight Rider’s Michael Knight and Garth then Dynasty’s Rita and Krystal. Thanks for your great review and a great pun for the title that even Moore himself would be proud of.

  2. Patricia Nolan-Hall (@CaftanWoman) December 18, 2021

    Nice praise for an underrated actor. I certainly won’t avoid the film the next time we cross paths.

  3. Gabriela (Palewriter) December 19, 2021

    I really enjoyed this review, so well written and thorough in its exploration of Moore’s performance. I absolutely agree with your assessment, whilst by no means my favourite Roger non Bond film, it is definitely his best performance and shows his acting capacity extremely well. Thank you for contributing to our Blogathon.

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