8 August 2008 | Spikeopath
An inspector calls and leaves an indelible mark.
A toff English family dinner is interrupted by the appearance of Inspector Poole, he announces that a young lady has committed suicide by the ingestion of disinfectant. At first the family is oblivious as to why this concerns them, but as Poole interviews each family member, it's apparent that one thing binds them all to the mystery.
Adapted from the J.B. Priestley stage play, An Inspector Calls is everything that was great about 50s British Cinema. Simple in structure it may be, but the lack of clogging in any form shines brighter than many a lavish production from this particular decade. The films cause is helped immensely by the quality of the writing, Desmond Davis adding further quality to the already great source provided by the talented Priestley. At first the film leads you to believe that it's going to be a one room interrogation piece, but thru a series of flash backs we are taken out of the room to follow this intriguing story to its quite brilliant finale. There are no histrionics from the actors in this piece, all of them are wonderful because they adhere to the necessity of letting the story be the star. Alastair Sim is perfectly cast as Inspector Poole, a large presence with those highly sympathetic eyes, Sim may be playing the main character, yet he's playing second fiddle to the fleshing out of the Birling family deconstruction, it's a wonderful case where the acting glue is holding it all together.
Director Guy Hamilton does a smashing job of making the film permanently edgy, a sense of unease is palpable throughout, and it's only during the final reel that the heart of the film shows its ace card, and even then, the makers have one more trick up their sleeves. Also worth mentioning is the editing from the sadly uncredited Geoffrey Botterill, so many films containing flash back sequences feel intrusive to the flow of a picture, it isn't here, it's spot on. An Inspector Calls is a wonderful mystery piece that is dotted with moments of unease, but all this would go to waste if the pay off was merely a damp squib, it thankfully isn't, and the likes of Rod Serling and Charles Beaumont were surely nodding in approval.
Highly recommended 9/10.
*Footnote:Alastair Sim is listed on this site as playing Inspector Goole, that is the characters name in the Priestley play, but i can assure everyone that his characters name is definitely Inspector Poole for this film version.