3 April 2007 | lost-in-limbo
80,000 too many.
After a New Year's party, Dr. Steven Monks plans to head away on holidays with his wife Julie to patch up their weary marriage, but when later that night he diagnoses a patient of smallpox. Soon enough the city of Bath is facing an epidemic and Julie (who's an ex-nurse) wants to stay back and help out. The medical team led by Dr. Monks slowly starts to contain the outbreak after some early deaths and Julie being infected, but this leaves one case involving his colleague Dr. Clifford's runaway wife Ruth, who could be carrying the virus. What makes it harder for Monk, is that he had an secret affair with the lady, and this stressful situation has brought up the issue.
What looks like a crisp BW medical thriller on the surface turns out to be much more a melodramatic story centred on human interactions on a personal level. Where marriage is tested, adultery is looming and the smallpox epidemic is an interesting backdrop tool. This one is inspired off Elleston Trevor's novel "The Pillars of Midnight" and Val Guest would go on to direct and write the feature (which has dated considerably). Guest achieves a nice sense of realism with its workable semi-documentary touch, authentic locations and glum atmospheric air, but underneath that it never raises any intensity or urgency within the spreading outbreak and the personal side of the story lacks emotion and ends up pretty square. This makes way for a plodding pace and in the long run being a tad overlong. Guest's sedated, but standard handling in direction is competent and careful, but never entirely gripping and his material, while admirable never really clicks or takes off, like it could have done. It settles on a familiar and safe tone for most part. The talkative script is thickly verbose and strikes up few interesting character developments, but more often falls into many deadpan exchanges. The performances are acceptably durable, but better then the material they're given. Richard Johnson is rigidly ice-cold as Dr. Steven Monks and the stunning Claire Bloom impresses as Julie, but her classy turn is simply pulled back by the material. In able support roles is Michael Goodliffe, Cyril Cusack and an eccentric Yolande Donlan.
"80,000 Suspects" is stuffy and predictable, but in it stays watchable because of a solid looking production and some captivating, if not spectacular factors.