CLASSIC REEL : 'The Man Who Haunted Himself'
Cast: Roger Moore, Hildegarde Neil, Anton Rodgers and Olga Georges-Picot
Year of release: 1970
Directed by: Basil Dearden
Plot: After recovering from a car accident, a man's orderly life gets disrupted by baffling occurrences, apparently carried out by him. Is he going insane or there is more to his so-called memory lapses?
Before the late Sir Roger became the third James Bond, he was the rogue with a heart, Simon Templar in The Saint (1962-1969). And he was the lead in this psychological thriller, based on the novel- The Strange Case of Mr Pelham by Anthony Armstrong. Moore fans accustomed to seeing him as The Saint and 007 would be amazed by his acting skills in this suspenseful, nail-biting film.
Jump forward to the end of his sick leave and he goes back to work, as though nothing happened. But then things slowly start to get weird. He finds an annoying acquaintance in his house, who claimed he invited him over for a drink after they played snooker at their club the previous Thursday. However, that couldn't have happened, because Harold was in Spain that Thursday. At the club, he is paid £5 for winning a bet on a snooker game with the said acquaintance... a game he does not remember playing and couldn't have possibly played because he was in Spain.
Added to this is the tension between him and his wife Eve (Hildegarde Neil), who hopes another baby would help with their present runt but Harold is reluctant at the idea or actually trash out their problems. At the casino, a young woman grins at him- a woman he remembers because he accidentally bumped into her while he was at the swimming pool, but then she reproaches him for not telling her he was married, even though he never said anything except apologise for bumping into her. Eve sees them and accuses him of womanizing behind her back, yet never having time for her and the children because of his work.
As if that wasn't enough, Harold's boss states the company's competitor claims Harold okayed a takeover he disagreed with and on confronting the man, he is told they met three times to discuss it, where they agreed on the terms.
He finds a bill for a necklace he doesn't remember buying and on tracing it to the receiver discovers it was the young woman he ran into at the casino and swimming pool; Julie Anderson (Olga Georges-Picot), who gets angry and tells him to leave when he asks who was putting her up to trapping him; but not before she tells him they have been sleeping together.
Sir Roger Moore gave a great performance in this film, particularly when he was expressing his emotions. As Simon Templar, Lord Brett Sinclair in The Persuaders! and later on James Bond, he was cocky, humourous and flippant- yet serious when he had to be. But in this, he goes from uptight to baffled, baffled to very angry and from very angry to hysterical- a man on the verge of a severe nervous breakdown; which was a totally different side of him. His character is a man whose orderly life is being slowly unravelled by circumstances he does not understand and making him question his sanity; a mystery that keeps the audience guessing what is really wrong with Mr Pelham, until the mind-blowing climax.
Is there a look-alike imposter who is bent on ruining his life? If so, why?
Is the imposter the owner of the silver Lamborghini Islero parked outside his house?
Was Harold really going mad, damaged by the accident?
The Man Who Haunted Himself will leave you hungry for the answers. A brillant, well-acted, well-written thriller. Sir Roger Moore at his best.
According to Sir Roger Moore, this was his favourite role. 'It was a film I actually got to act in, rather than just being all white teeth and flippant and heroic.'
The novel was adapted as an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode in 1955.
Sir Roger Moore was cast as James Bond after his T.V series, The Persuaders! was cancelled in 1972; his 007 debut was in Live and Let Die in 1973. But Moore's character- Harold Pelham- said the line, 'Espionage isn't all James Bond on Her Majesty's Secret Service'.