User Reviews (21)

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  • brice-1815 February 2008
    It's good news for Welles completists that this, the better of the two films he made for Herbert Wilcox in 1952 (to help finance his on-off-on but finally magnificent film of 'Othello') is now available on DVD, though dismally free of extras. As a thriller it is a puzzle almost devoid of suspense, though there are some clever twists at the end. There are polished performances by Margaret Lockwood, John McCallum, Michael Wilding as the classy sleuth Trent, Miles Malleson in one of his best roles and Welles. Welles appears for no more than 20 minutes, in flashback, but, with his formidable false nose, is an intimidating presence as the late Sigsbee Manderson. In a fraught dialogue with McCallum he talks about 'Othello' and the production he's recently seen: "Didn't like the leading actor!" The leading actor was Welles himself, performing at the St James' theatre - a performance I was privileged have seen a year or two earlier, when Ken Tynan, long before PC was thought of, headed his review 'Citizen Coon'!
  • Unlike the other reviewers above, I enjoyed this film immensely, probably because I am a Margaret Lockwood fan and collect as many of her films as I can when they are available.This one is not commercially available but I managed to find a dealer on Ebay who specialises in the older films I like.The other reviewers mention it is too "talky" but this is not supposed to be "Die Hard" or even a James Bond adventure.It is a cultured British film, from Republic films, from 1952 with an excellent cast who speak with wonderful diction and enunciation before "kitchen sink drama" mesmerised film producers.Herbert Wilcox (Anna Neagle's husband) produced this gripping thriller that keeps you guessing right up to the very end.I will concede that the plot is at times a bit like an amateur dramatic society but this gives it its intrinsic charm especially when the principal parts are played by good professional actors.An example is Orson Wells sitting in an armchair and filmed from the rear redolent of a James Bond villain.He only needed to be stroking a white cat on his lap!! Michael Wilding plays his usual debonair self as "Philip Trent" the artistic crime reporter.Margaret Lockwood plays again the pianoforte (see my critique of "Love Story" (1944) when she played Lissa Campbell),This time we have the pleasure of listening to Eileen Joyce (the real pianist) playing the famous Mozart piano concerto no:24 in C minor, larghetto movement.Eileen's other famous film credit was playing the Rachmaninov 2nd piano concerto in C minor for "Brief Encounter (1945).Orson as mentioned was fond of Shakespeare's "Othello" and some of this plot is worked into this film.Like "The Third Man" (1949), Orson does not appear until late into the film but he immediately makes his not inconsiderable presence felt as "Sigsbee Manderson".Margaret plays Margaret Manderson his wife.No trouble remembering her name by the cast!John McCallum gives a workmanlike performance as John Marlowe, the secretary to Manderson and Miles Malleson for once leaves aside his clerical garb to play Burton Cupples, Margaret's uncle.What amused me was seeing a very young Kenneth Williams playing a garrulous Welsh gardener! You would only see this film if you you actively set out to acquire it since it never appears on the the TV and as I said is not commercially available.Obviously being a thriller I will not divulge the plot.Suffice to say it ends happily for all concerned.I rated it 8/10. Since I wrote this critique in July 2007 this title is now commercially available from Enjoy!
  • blanche-210 August 2011
    Michael Wilding takes up "Trent's Last Case" in this 1952 film directed by Herbert Wilcox for Republic Studios. It's British with a British cast that includes Margaret Lockwood, John McCallum, Hugh McDermott, and one American, Orson Welles, who was probably trying to raise money for a project.

    Trent is an artist and also an amateur detective. He gets involved in the suicide of a wealthy man named Manderson, but as he investigates, it looks more and more like murder. One suspect stands out, but how to prove it?

    Unlike many detectives in books and movies, Trent is fallible. This is a neat mystery with a few red herrings. I don't agree that it was dull; I think the story itself keeps the film going, as well as the attractive Michael Wilding. Wilding falls in with many of those tall, good-looking British actors from the '50s - Robert Flemying, Michael Rennie, etc., and probably wouldn't be well known here if he hadn't married Elizabeth Taylor. Nevertheless, he was quite urbane with a great voice and acquits himself well as Trent. Margaret Lockwood is lovely as the victim's widow, and she keeps you guessing.

    Not as bad as some reviewers claim. Maybe not as good either, but I enjoyed it. Orson Welles apparently had an obsession with using fake noses on his characters. It's really obvious in profile.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Copyright 29 October 1952 by Republic Pictures Corp. An Imperadio Pictures (London) Production. New York opening at the Little Carnegie: late November-early December 1953 (exact date unknown). U.S. release: 1 January 1954. U.K. release through British Lion: 2 February 1953. Australian release through London Films: 26 February 1953. 90 minutes. SYNOPSIS: An international financier dies mysteriously. His wife and male secretary are the chief suspects.

    NOTES: Third film version of Bentley's 1913 novel. Other versions were made in 1920 (with Gregory Scott as Trent, directed by Richard Garrick) and 1929 (with Raymond Griffith as Trent, directed by Howard Hawks). For a while there, it looked as if Trent's first book was also to be his last, but Trent's Own Case (written in collaboration with Herbert Warner Allen) followed in 1936 and Trent Intervenes (a collection of short stories) in 1938.

    COMMENT: Although he plays the title role with considerable grace and charm-and receives top billing-Michael Wilding takes a distinct fourth place in the film's advertising to Margaret Lockwood, John McCallum and Orson Welles. Michael's lucky that he has a head shot at all. True, Miss Lockwood is very charismatic-and so is Mr Welles-but charisma is a quality that Mr Wilding (and McCallum too for that matter) signally lack, competent (and even likable) though their performances are. However, all the players are beautifully lit and photographed.

    For the most part, acting, script and direction maintain viewer suspense and interest rather well. Unlike previous versions, this one follows the novel very closely. This is both an asset and a liability. At the time of its first publication, Bentley's novel struck new ground. Trent is neither a super-detective like Sherlock Holmes or a criminal like Raffles or an oddball like The Thinking Machine or a dilettante like Philo Vance, Ellery Queen, Reggie Fortune and Lord Peter Wimsey. He is a working artist and journalist who is not only human enough to fall in love with the chief suspect in Trent's Last Case but to get his "solution" to the mystery completely wrong!

    Wilding handles Trent most convincingly. His portrayal is probably the most accurate of a well-known fictional detective ever presented on the screen. But it's not enough, alas, to completely justify a tale that is overloaded with talk and understaffed with action. However, it's not really until near the end (when we just get too bone-tired of all the explanations and re-explanations) that our interest starts to wilt.

    In the meantime, as I say, we have plenty to occupy our minds and hearts. Welles' appearance is deliberately held back to obtain the maximum suspense, but we do have the lovely Lockwood, plus a nice offbeat performance by Sam Kydd (of all people) to divert us in the meantime.

    Hugh McDermott plays a somewhat shady secretary with surprising ease. And, thanks to adroit acting by all involved and clever editing, the whole courtroom scene comes across with style, humor and tension.

    Yes, director Wilcox does his level best with Bentley's over-detailed material. Production values (including some wonderful sets) are nothing if not lavish.
  • This is pure whodunit,in the grand tradition of Agatha Christie and there are similarities with the lady of crime's "murder on the links" ,but the solution is not as brilliant as hers ,because in this field,she has no equal.

    Anyway ,everyone who likes Christie will relish .A desirable mansion ,where a man took his own life (or was it murder?) and suspects including two secretaries,one of whom may be in love with the dead's wife and the other one may be jealous.But the main asset of the movie is the wealthy (suicidal?) businessman ,masterfully portrayed by Orson Welles whom we only see in flashbacks :the scene when we hear his formidable voice ,but only the back of his armchair gives the jitters. Michael Wilding has no gray cells,but he displays flair for clues ,as though he had be trained by Hercule Poirot.Entertaining whodunit.
  • Agatha Christie considered this intrigue one of the best ever written, and it certainly is. The mystery is deep here, and as it gradually is unravelled you are in for any number of surprises. The actors are outstanding, with Michael Wilding as the detective intruding on the private lives of the young widow Margaret Lockwood and the man who loves her, who is the prime suspect, while Orson Welles as the victim provides an impressing finale as he enters in the final flashback. Miles Malleson plays an important part as a reluctant participant in the plot, while the story is what really matters. Herbert Wilcox' direction is faultless but very formal, giving the film a somewhat conventional character - there is no cinematography to speak of, while music plays an important part - Eileen Joyce has a moment as a performing pianist, and the film score is by Anthony Collins, who is also seen acting as a conductor - one of his rare appearances on film. After having reached the end of the story, and Michael Wilding closing his last case as Trent, yuo just have to agree with Agatha Christie about the marvellous windings of this plot.
  • gridoon20208 February 2012
    Warning: Spoilers
    "Trent's Last Case" is not a classic, but it's a nice little cozy mystery. It is well-plotted, and by watching it a second time you can see how well the entire story hangs together (though the very last twist does not really change the essence of the story - but maybe that was precisely the point). There is also a distinguished British cast (Margaret Lockwood is accurately described within the film as "very beautiful, dark, and self-possessed"), plus an eccentric and quite fascinating turn by Orson Welles, who despite his third billing appears only in the last half-hour, in flashbacks. The director doesn't do anything phenomenal, but he doesn't do anything wrong, either; the settings are opulent but do not overwhelm the story. I believe most genre fans will enjoy this one. **1/2 out of 4.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If it weren't for the presence of Orson Welles as the ostensible murder victim in Trent's Last Case, this rather indifferent British murder mystery would be consigned to blessed obscurity. For that the rest of the cast should be grateful.

    The title role is played by Michael Wilding as Philip Trent, amateur detective and full time artist for a day job. He gets called in on a case that the coroner has already ruled a suicide, but Trent gets a mysterious note that compels him to keep on digging.

    The dead man is played in flashback by Orson Welles as we get the real story of what happened from a couple of sources. Welles comes on a whole lot like Charles Foster Kane, it's probably the reason he was sought by producer Herbert Wilcox for the role. Welles is a billionaire like Kane with a jealous streak and an incredibly beautiful wife in Margaret Lockwood. That's enough to make any man jealous and the object of his jealousy is his own private secretary John McCallum.

    In the end the real story does come out. Trent's Last Case is a lot like Compulsion where a mediocre film is lifted to something approaching greatness by Welles's performance as the defense attorney.

    Though his role is light years from Jonathan Wilk, it's Welles whom you wait for throughout the film. And although he's good, he does not do for Trent's Last Case what he did in Compulsion. The film is very talky and when the talk isn't made by Orson Welles, the talk is dull.
  • I was pleasantly surprised by this film. I fail to understand why so many people have criticized it. I thought the entire peace of work was brilliant! Orson Welles gives a stirring and chilling performance as an insane cynical business man. I especially loved the fact that his presence remains quite strong through out the entirety of the film. The story reeks of the talent of Orson Welles. I am surprised that he did not direct the peace himself. We follow the story of a young new reporter looking for the story of a life time. He finds such a story within the home of a black widow, brilliantly played by Margret Lockwood. As i have stated many times, Margret Lockwood never ceases to amaze me with her subtle, but layered performances. She manages here to evoke a certain dismalness that cannot go unnoticed. She plays a rather mellow and unfeeling part. Frankly, her character is really not all that interesting. Margret plays her part well, but the part is very limited. The main focus is the character of Trent, a savvy and sly man who will stop it nothing to find the truth. This film is a classic murder mystery, produced in a citizen Kane manner. The flash back sequences are very well crafted, as well the plot and story structure. The other characters are also quite interesting. The character of Marlow is perhaps the victim of this tale and probably the most sympathetic of all characters. However,the ending is rather clich√© and slightly destroys the tone of the film. I do recommend this film though on so many levels. If you want a good mystery story, as well as some good acting, then sit back and enjoy!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When TRENT'S LAST CASE first appeared in 1913 it shook up the detective mystery reading public because of the "daring" of the author's approach to the style of the novel. Up to then you had the classic straightforward mystery story from Poe to Collins to Conan Doyle, wherein you have a person who is confronted by a mystery (usually a murder case, although a theft of a jewel or property is possible). The one real innovation in this form was in 1905, when R. Austen Freeman suggested the "inverted detective story". You may be familiar with this if you watch Peter Falk as Inspector Columbo on television. Instead of the hero of the mystery story stumbling onto the scene of the result of the crime, and then piecing together the solution using the clues carefully, Freeman looked at the behavior of the perpetrator (not always a villain, by the way), and how he or she commits the crime, and how the brilliant detective slowly reveals the various inconsistencies that make the crime look less and less an accident than was intended. This became an acceptable development in detective novels.

    But along came Bentley. He had the audacity to suggest the fallibility of the detective. A Dupin, a Lecoq, a Holmes, a Father Brown, a Dr. Thorndyke, could be momentarily stumped or wrong, but inevitably would solve the mystery. But Bentley suggested that even a brilliant detective like Philip Trent was human - he comes to a wrong solution in this story (he suggests the victim plotted his own suicide to entrap his victim). Instead, Trent's uncle solves the case. It only shows that the trickiness of circumstantial evidence and clues can fool anyone.

    The story is dated - there was very casually accepted anti-Semitism in British fiction at the time (and since Sigsbee Manderson is extremely rich from stock-market manipulations, the image of Jewish stock brokers is overused in the book and even, at one point, intrudes into the movie - a newspaper editor, dictating an editorial, mentions the death of Manderson leads to suicides and panics including one in Jerusalem!). Bentley was not the only person who wrote like this. Chesterton did (and more vehemently). Even Conan-Doyle (despite his real life aid to Oscar Slater, a Jewish German suspect in a Scots murder case) occasionally used negative terms for Jews - see his "The Adventure of the Stock-Broker's Clerk". Freeman, like Chesterton and Bentley, was more openly bigoted.

    On the other hand, the story is interesting enough for the viewer to keep his or her opinions on the bigotry aside. The main problem about it is the suspension of disbelief regarding whether a brilliant malevolent millionaire would actually put his being in jeopardy by putting such a weird plot into motion. I suspect not. It would be easier to fire or even kill the rival.

    In 1952 Orson Welles was working around Europe raising money for projects, chief of which was his movie of OTHELLO. Welles performed in many films, frequently in second rate ones. He agreed to do the role of Manderson, who (like Harry Lime in a better film) only appears on screen in the last quarter of the movie, but whose spirit permeates the entire film. To make the evil millionaire more detestable Welles made the face of Manderson striking but ugly. His eyes are made beetle like by a wide brown under a strikingly straight, large nose. He looks formidable indeed, but utterly untrustworthy, and unlovable.

    Welles performance (mostly against Margaret Leighton and John McCallan) is pretty good. But most of the film is in the hands of dapper, clever, Michael Wilding. Wilding is not an actor of the same caliber of Welles, but he does nicely with the part of the competent and self-confident Philip Trent. Also doing a nice (and as it turns out, surprising ) job is Miles Malleson as Trent's uncle. For these three I will give the film a six.

    But that said, the film is otherwise too talky, not enough action (until we see what actually happened - far too late in the film). If not for the performances listed above, this film would be easily dismissible.

    Well, it would have one other moment of unintentional amusement. A better screenplay writer might have gone to town with a small mistake that Wilding's Trent makes when confronting McCallum. He mentions that he is aware of the latter's brilliant performance (at university) in a production of Shakespeare. The problem is that the play he mentions and the role that McCallum appeared in were not connected (i.e., the role was in another Shakespearean play). I wonder if Wilding and McCallum were aware of the blunder. If they were they didn't show any awareness of it in the filming.
  • MICHAEL WILDING is an armchair detective who sets out to determine whether or not the death of ORSON WELLES was suicide or murder. He thinks he's solved the case, only to learn that all is not what it appears (without giving the outcome away).

    Unfortunately, the script is a dreary, talky and ponderous, making the film appear to be an amateurish stage play, although based on a novel. It's static. Nothing at all cinematic about the approach, nor is there any imagination in the directing.

    Of all the players, MARGARET LOCKWOOD as the beautiful wife of the deceased man and JOHN McCALLUM as the man's secretary have key roles that they play with assurance. ORSON WELLES, with fake nose and bushy brows, might as well have been from another film. His ten or fifteen minutes of time on screen renders nothing but ham. Director Herbert Wilcox was evidently unable to tone him down and as a result his key scenes throw the film off stride. MICHAEL WILDING has a colorless role as the newspaper reporter who suspects foul play but can't prove anything.

    With a talky script and lack of any cinematic touches, TRENT'S LAST CASE goes nowhere fast and leaves the viewer expecting a strong twist that never arrives--instead, a flat ending.

    Production values are fine even though the film comes from the usually low-budget Republic studios.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Formulaic whodunnit that threatens to be interesting but turns out not to be. We've seen the setup many times before - amateur sleuth Trent (Michael Wilding) investigates an alleged suicide case, and unearths clues that the police were too dim to find for themselves, suggesting it was murder (the victim's fingerprints on the gun were from the wrong hand: he's a lefty, and nobody noticed the discrepancy ... ) The only difference in this case is that Trent's detailed description of what actually happened is wrong, so it wasn't murder after all, it was a suicide made to look like murder so that the dead man can frame his male secretary (John McCallum) in retaliation for lusting after his wife. But wait! That's not the 'real' explanation either -the gun went off by accident in a struggle, when the suicide was about to occur, but was interrupted by Miles Malleson, out for a late night stroll. These revelations come thick and fast at the end, but by then you don't care any more because each of them is more preposterous than the one before. A decent cast are better than the material, and there is an ill-fitting cameo from Orson Welles, with prosthetic face, as a larger than life character belonging to a different kind of film. The least you hope for is that it won't have the usual, predictable, ending, but your hopes are dashed: once the suicide/murder/suicide to look like murder/accident has been solved, Trent can marry the man's widow (Margaret Lockwood), whom he first met a couple of days ago. A real disappointment, but fortunately it's Trent's last case.
  • dbborroughs29 January 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    Armchair detective gets involved in the case of the death of a rich man. The inquest says suicide- but ends are left hanging so Trent investigates.

    Stoggie formal British mystery with Orson Welles in flashbacks playing the dead man with a pointy nose, too much make up and raised eyebrows. He's in over acting mode chewing the scenery in his "look at me style". He's in the film for just over ten minutes but all I remembered was his bad acting and silly nose.

    As for the rest of the film it's an okay time waster, but it's not much beyond that. It's a long 90 minutes
  • Warning: Spoilers
    One other reviewer stated this so well: "If it weren't for the presence of Orson Welles as the ostensible murder victim in Trent's Last Case, this rather indifferent British murder mystery would be consigned to blessed obscurity. For that the rest of the cast should be grateful."

    I agree. Not only was I bored to death it took me 3 weeks to get through this thing a few minutes at a time. The film look nice. All the male leads are charming. The female lead is gorgeous, but has little to do except mourn, play the piano, and look sad some more. When Welles does appear (in flashback); he quite over the top and you WANT him to die. Our detective doesn't do very much and somehow gets the girl in the end. Bah!
  • What accounted for the staying power of this ridiculous story? That's the real mystery behind "Trent's Last Case." This was its third film incarnation, but why? How did the producer entice three movie stalwarts like Michael Wilding, Margaret Lockwood, and Orson Welles to appear in it? With money, or something darker, like black magic? The studio behind this adventure, Republic, let Welles film "Macbeth" a few years earlier, so maybe he had some past obligations. In this production, the body of Welles' character, an international financier with the preposterous first name of Sigsby, turns up on his estate with his brains blown out. This event makes several people, including his wife and business manager, somewhat uneasy. The cops don't much care one way or the other, so its up to the intrepid painter turned detective, Trent, to sort it all out. Signifying nothing, as Macbeth put it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    TRENT'S LAST CASE is another adaptation of an old mystery novel previously filmed twice in the 1920s. It's notable for featuring Orson Welles in a supporting role, although when I say supporting I really mean it; he only gets about ten minutes of the running time to himself. The rest follows amateur sleuth Michael Wilding around as he attempts to prove that an apparent suicide was really murder. Margaret Lockwood gives great support as the dead man's wife and there's even a small role for Kenneth Williams playing a Welsh gardener, of all things. The film betrays its literary origins by being very talky and lacking in real incident, and the mystery's solution is rather contrived, but it still serves as representative of its era.
  • All the characters just talk and talk till the proverbial cows come home.There is hardly any action and when it does occur it is talked over by one of the characters.Unfortunately by this stage of his career Herbert Wilcox had clearly lost whatever touch he had in the first place.After his success with Anna Neagle in the forties he turned out one dud after another in the fifties and by the end of the decade he was bankrupt.Quite frankly this film is more akin to a radio play than a film.I suggest that for say 5 minutes you turn down the picture brightness and just listen.You will not miss a thing.There is absolutely nothing cinematic about this film.The only point of suspense is how long are we going to have to wait for Orson to appear and how long will he appear for.Other than that the only pleasure in this film is seeing a very young Kenneth Williams and Miles Malleson with an odd wig and an even stranger beard.Looks like an inverted ice cream cone.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I am sure my summary above confused you. Let me explain. Although "Trent's Last Case" is not a terrible film, I would have rather it have been bad because at least it would have been interesting (albeit in a bad way). Instead, the film just meanders....and none of it seemed very interesting.

    The film begins with the death of some dude. Everyone is a why does it later turn out the dead man is an American (Orson Welles). Well, that isn't important...but it did perplex me. Anyway, everyone thinks it's a suicide and the inquest rules it as such. But a dogged detective (Michael Wilding) has reason to believe it was a murder. After he finds the murderer (about halfway through the film), the movie backtracks to explaining why it occurred...though I was bored by this and especially by Welles' overblown performance (subtle it wasn't).

    Overall, competently made but really, really uninteresting.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A very dull movie on a novel which was famous because it tried to be the reversal of the usual mystery novels. A long work by the amateur detective which results in an impregnable indictment of the murder, until in the end someone confesses having witnessed what was an accident. The picture is too talky. Even its denouement is talked. No suspense at all. By 1952 Herbert Wilcox had proved not to be the notable director they claimed he was in the thirties. Good performances by Michael Wilding and Orson Welles. Indifferent by an aging Margaret Lockwood.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    With an acclaimed murder-mystery novel that had a great subversive, twist ending as its source, "Trent's Last Case" should've been cracking entertainment.

    Alas, the director is Herbert Wilcox who had a lengthy and largely successful career but even his popular films haven't aged well due to his pedestrian, uninventive style and he's a forgotten figure today.

    His patented conservative, dreary direction largely sinks this film almost immediately. The early segment at the coroner's inquest is so boring one struggles to maintain interest. The film does improve a bit though once Trent begins to investigate and challenge the official version of events.

    And there are some nice performances from a very good cast. Orson Welles displays another of his vivid characterisations in his brief role. John McCallum gives an impressive performance as someone with plenty to hide; his facial reactions when Trent reveals he knows most of his secrets makes the scene quite compelling.

    However, overall this film is a major disappointment. The final scene which tries to be both a revelation of who the actual murderer was AND be a romantic ending is especially poorly handled.
  • writers_reign3 January 2020
    Warning: Spoilers
    Herbert Wilcox was to nepotism what Horlicks is to bedtime; having directed his wife, Anna Neagle, in numerous ho-hum movies he now signs up daughter Pamela Bower to write a ho-hum screenplay and just to square the circle the film was released by Republic whose CEO Herbert J. Yates wasn't above featuring his own untalented wife Vera Ralston as leading clown in several films. That's all that's really worth saying about this static, unimaginative and largely inept squandering of celluloid. Again Orson Welles receives prominent billing for ten minutes screentime and no doubt the rest of the competent cast envied him as they got stuck with the full ninety minutes. For insomniacs and Late, Late, Late show addicts only.