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Freddie Francis
Janette Scott, Oliver Reed, Sheila Burrell
Jimmy Sangster

A man long believed dead returns to the family estate to claim his inheritance.
Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 80 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 2/8/2022

• Audio Commentary from Film Historian Bruce Hallenbeck
• “Drink to Deception” Featurette
• “Toast to Terror” Featurette
• “The Making of Paranoiac” Featurette
• Trailer
• Still Gallery


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Paranoiac [Blu-Ray] (1963)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 24, 2022)

Most of Hammer Studio’s famous films revolved around fantasy horror themes and characters like Dracula. However, Hammer branched into less supernatural domains as well, and 1963’s Paranoiac follows this thread.

11 years earlier, the patriarch and matriarch of the wealthy Ashby family died in a plane crash. Distraught with grief, son Tony (Alexander Davion) committed suicide.

This leaves alcoholic son Simon (Oliver Reed), mentally unstable daughter Eleanor (Janette Scott) and overprotective aunt Harriet (Sheila Burrell) as the remaining members of the family. With Simon about ready to receive his inheritance, Tony returns from the dead – or does an imposter attempt to fool the Ashbys?

When director Freddie Francis died in 2007, obituaries referred to him as a two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer. As the man behind the photography of flicks like Glory, The Elephant Man and 1991’s Cape Fear, he deserved this praise.

As a director, however, Francis struggled to get into the kind of “prestige projects” for which he acted as cinematographer. A look at his directorial filmography reveals mainly an array of “B”-level genre flicks, with nothing that seems noteworthy.

Add Paranoiac to that list. While not a bad film, it seems fairly mediocre, and Francis does little to elevate the material.

Well, not as director, at least, as Paranoiac excels in one area: photography. Though Arthur Grant acted as cinematographer, I suspect Francis exerted more than a little influence in that domain.

Whoever deserves the credit, Paranoiac consistently looks great. Francis and Grant create a stark, moody sensibility that adds impact and tension to the tale.

Too bad the script itself fails to find much natural drama. Oh, for a while we get a decent mystery, as we wonder whether or not Tony is the real deal or a phony.

However, Paranoiac answers that question surprisingly early. To compensate for the ensuing lack of suspense, the film goes down a more overt thriller path that seems misguided at best.

In my eternal desire to avoid spoilers, I won’t convey the curveball that Paranoiac throws at us in its second act. I will state that this choice feels cheesy and absurd.

Would a version of Paranoiac that concentrated solely on the “is he or isn’t he” look at Tony have fared better? Maybe not, but at least it would seem less ridiculous than the goofball stabs at fright the film provides.

The actors try their best with the thin material, and I find it intriguing to see Reed in a fairly early role. Of course, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to watch Reed play a drunken brute, but he adds some psychopathic impact to the part.

Unfortunately, too much of Paranoiac feels like trite melodrama punctuated by tacky attempts at thrills. It never becomes as involving or tense as it should, so it winds up as a forgettable genre effort.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio C-/ Bonus B

Paranoiac appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into a satisfying image.

Sharpness worked nicely. A couple of shots demonstrated mild softness, but those remained minor and infrequent, so the majority of the flick boasted solid delineation

I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes stayed absent. The image also failed to display many print flaws, as I saw a couple minor blemishes but nothing much.

Blacks came across as deep and tight, and contrast was a strength. Low-light shots demonstrated nice clarity and dimensionality. All of this added up to a generally strong presentation.

For its era, the movie’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack felt acceptable but it came with issues. In particular, though lines remained intelligible, they could seem sibilant and edgy at times.

Music showed surprisingly good range for some elements, whereas others sounded less accurate. Effects came with some of the concerns too, as these elements could appear somewhat rough and harsh.

I heard no concerns related to background noise or source flaws. The audio remained adequate for its age but the weaknesses made it a “C-”.

A few extras appear here, and we find an audio commentary from film historian Bruce Hallenbeck. He offers a running, screen-specific look at the source and its adaptation, story/characters, genre domains, cast and crew, and some production details.

Hallenbeck provides a pretty solid historical commentary, as he delves into appropriate topics in a logical and informative manner. We disagree about the movie itself – he likes it a whole lot more than I do – but Hallenbeck makes good arguments for the flick and delivers an engaging chat.

Three featurettes follow, and Drink to Deception provides a 14-minute, 48-second program. It offers notes from film historian Kim Newman.

“Drink” examines the source and its adaptation as well as aspects of Hammer Studios in the era and some specific thoughts about Paranoiac. Newman offers a good summary of these domains.

A Toast to Terror spans 25 minutes, 23 seconds and provides remarks from film historian Jonathan Rigby. He looks at various Paranoiac-related domains, some of which cross the topics broached by Newman and Hallenbeck. Nonetheless, Rigby digs up enough new content to make this a worthwhile chat.

With The Making of Paranoiac, we find a 27-minute, 57-second show. Hosted by Hammer historian Wayne Kimsey, the show includes material from screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, sound recordist Alan Lavender, script supervisor Pauline Harlow, assistant director Hugh Harlow, and actor Oliver Reed.

Here we get another overview related to aspects of the Paranoiac production. Inevitably, we find repetition after the prior programs, but the presence of some involved with the film help give it a new spin on the flick.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we finish with a Still Gallery. It brings 66 frames that mix movie shots, publicity photos and ads. It becomes a decent compilation.

Outside of better than average cinematography, not much about Paranoiac works. The movie suffers from flawed plotting and a lack of real suspense, factors that cause real problems for a psychological thriller. The Blu-ray brings pretty good picture with iffy audio and a few bonus materials. Though not a terrible film, Paranoiac lacks the punch it needs to work on a consistent basis.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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