Under Suspicion Review

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Although a screen original, this has the pleasantly musty feel of those 1950s British thrillers Penguin used to publish with green covers and which get serialised on Woman's Hour from time to time. In 1959, sleazy private eye Neeson fakes compromising photographs for divorce cases. His latest scam turns sour when he barges into a Brighton hotel room and finds his latest client, a world-famous painter, and his wife-accomplice bloodily shot dead. It looks as if someone is framing him for the murders, and so - aided by trusty policeman pal Cranham - he delves deeper, and gets involved with the dead man's yummy mistress (San Giacomo), which only makes things look even worse when the case comes to trial. Meanwhile, the painter's missing thumb, vital in authenticating his potentially valuable canvasses, is lurking around somewhere, and it's obvious that the painter's non-grieving widow, a suavely untrustworthy lawyer, and a wonky cigarette lighter have something to do with the case.

Under Suspicion is one of those mysteries - No Way Out was another - that's fun when it's being mysterious, and ever-so-slightly disappointing when it gets down to solutions. Neeson, in a fur-lined leather jacket, and San Giacomo, in a hat that looks like a feathery flying saucer, are fine hard-boiled protagonists, and Kenneth Cranham was obviously born too late, nature having equipped him perfectly to play honest coppers in Edgar Wallace Presents . . . B movies. The settings - with Portmerion glimpsed as an unlikely adjunct to 1950s Brighton - and the styles are pleasantly old-fashioned, which allows for some melodramatic excesses, including the best-ever dash-with-vital-evidence-to-save-a-man-from-the-gallows sequence in the cinema. However, the mystery develops rather wonkily, with the hero spending too much time in a cell as his best friend takes over the detective work, and the options for a surprise ending running out a good quarter of an hour before one comes along. Still, although you might feel let down at the end, the rest of the trip is fun.