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More to Roge than meets the eye
on 29 April 2007
The Man Who Haunted Himself isn't a particularly good film, but it is an interesting one and boasts a mostly impressive performance from Roger Moore. While he's not entirely successful, he does get to demonstrate that he had a lot more genuine talent than he's ever given credit for: one beautifully underplayed scene in particular where his uptight businessman who may or may not be having a nervous breakdown and his wife talk around his impotence is probably the best thing he's ever done. And he limits to the eyebrow lift trademark to a single arch usage, though there is a hint at things to come with a prescient joke about industrial espionage ("It's not all James Bond On Her Majesty's Secret Service" quips Moore three years before landing the part).
Previously filmed as an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, it's a classic doppelganger story, with Roge's bowler hatted city type having a nervous breakdown at the wheel of his car, crashing and briefly dying on the operating table only to become increasingly rattled that someone appears to be impersonating him in his absence. Not only that, but he seems to be doing a much better job of his life than he is. Is he going mad or is it part of a plot involving the takeover of his company? Or is he really haunting himself? For the first hour and some it works surprisingly well despite looking even more quaintly dated at times than most 70s films. Unfortunately things go downhill, as in so many other films, with the appearance of Freddie Jones in the last third, overacting to a degree unusual even for him as the kind of gurning, prop-fondling manic psychiatrist with an accent that stretches from Dublin to Fife who wears sunglasses in a darkened room (this may just have been down to then head of EMI Films Bryan Forbes, who also cast chronic overactor Aubrey Morris as a quack who wears sunglasses in a darkened room in the troubled Hammer film Blood from the Mummy's Tomb). Over enunciating and underlining every line several times and looking like a minor character from Monty Python's Flying Circus on day release, he tips the film over into unintentional comedy even more than the particularly ill-advised kipper tie that looks like it could feed a family of six that Moore wears in the last few scenes. The film does almost paint itself into a corner with its premise, with an ending that doesn't exactly disappoint but still isn't quite strong enough to entirely satisfy.
In addition to the original trailer and stills and storyboard galleries, the DVD has a pleasant audio commentary with Moore and Bryan Forbes, who as well as greenlighting the film did uncredited dialogue polish on the script. Among the facts thrown up is that in one of those truly horrible coincidences, director Basil Dearden died a few years later in a car crash at the exact spot they filmed the opening crash in the film. Haunting indeed...