20 March 2021 | Lejink
With God On Our Side
Bizarrely-plotted British drama with religious overtones. Set in a small southern Irish village, it starts off dramatically with William Bendix's character, a successful author, hauling himself down to the local bar where he offends the highly religious locals by loudly proclaiming his atheism to all and sundry. Someone sends for the village priest, Nigel Patrick, who attempts to calm down the blasphemer, who, now riled even more, defiantly dares God to strike him down on the spot, if He indeed exists. Cue Aldo Ray as Johnny Nobody, who promptly steps up to shoot him dead on the spot, claiming amnesia and proclaiming that he was divinely inspired to do the deed.
At the ensuing trial, there's a sensation when Patrick's priest is asked on the witness stand if God could indeed have divinely intervened, causing an adjournment as the trial erupts in uproar, with it seems all the locals, including by extension, the jury, buying into the "God made me do it" defence of the accused. Taking a particularly keen interest in the case is a local female journalist Yvonne Mitchell who seems especially interested in the evidence Patrick will give when the court resumes after the weekend. But Patrick's suspects there's more to this than meets the eye and decides to use the intervening 48 hours to follow up a lead arising from cryptic postcards containing Biblical quotations sent to his office, no doubt to influence his upcoming testimony. This leads him to a small country village and a number of scrapes, including a revelatory re-encounter with Mitchell, a run-in with a band of traveling folk and the local police on his tail as he then races back to the conclusion of the trial, where God seems to have the last word after all, or does he...?
I was intrigued by the initial premise, right up to the breakdown in the court trial, thinking the film might either continue on with a deep debate into the existence of God, like a sort of serious version of "The Man Who Sued God" or instead go the full mystery-adventure route like a good episode of later TV series like "The Avengers" or "Department S' but no such luck either way. Rather, Patrick escapes to the country to do some Father Brown-type sleuthing as the film lapses into an adventure caper, including an unlikely attempt at murder involving a galloping race-horse which makes you wonder why the perpetrator didn't just run him down in a car and the good father boarding a speeding train like that Bond fellow. As for the shocking conclusion, no doubt designed to make the contemporary viewer scratch their head and think "Well, maybe...", I must admit I found it hilariously preposterous.
Actor Patrick directs himself here, but with no real flair or imagination as he lets the story lead his camerawork and while the lead performances are all just about okay, the movie was too implausible and disjointed to do anything other than amuse me, which I know wasn't the aim.