Twisted Nerve (1968)

M   |    |  Drama, Thriller

Twisted Nerve (1968) Poster

Martin is a troubled young man. With a mother who insists on treating him like a child, a stepfather who can't wait to see the back of him, and a brother with Down's Syndrome shut away in ... See full summary »



  • Hayley Mills and Hywel Bennett in Twisted Nerve (1968)
  • Hayley Mills in Twisted Nerve (1968)
  • Hayley Mills and Hywel Bennett in Twisted Nerve (1968)
  • Salmaan Peerzada in Twisted Nerve (1968)
  • Hayley Mills and Hywel Bennett in Twisted Nerve (1968)
  • Hayley Mills and Hywel Bennett in Twisted Nerve (1968)

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31 December 2013 | Red-Barracuda
| Slightly off-beat cult British thriller
When I watched Twisted Nerve I wasn't aware of its controversial reputation and that it was quite a difficult film to get hold of. I was a little surprised to discover both those facts to be honest. The controversy that it caused in its day was due to the genetic theory put forward that siblings of Down's syndrome children are predisposed to criminal behaviour. The main character in the film suggesting that this theory to be true. I can see the offence that could cause but at the end of the day this is a thriller and not really to be taken very seriously. I have seen lots of murder-mystery's where the culprit is unmasked and their actions are explained by some ridiculous pseudo-science. And I think that is what needs to happen with Twisted Nerve – take it with a pinch of salt. As far as it being hard to get hold of and not seen by many – I have even noticed it appear on a public domain collection – that is even more surprising because this is a pretty solid thriller with a lot of good things about it. It doesn't exactly break the mould but it is still very good.

It centres on a young rich layabout called Martin who is molly-coddled by his mother but disliked by his step-father. The feeling is mutual though and Martin is forced to leave home but with murderous intent. He adopts the persona of Georgie – a boy with the mental age of a child – in order to dupe his way into the boarding house of a girl he is obsessed with and to enact his deadly scheme.

There's a pretty good cast in this one. Hywel Bennett is very good in the central role of Martin/Georgie. It's a character that requires a fair bit of range from cold psychopath to wide-eyed innocent. Bennett delivers the goods though and ensures that we believe in his character. Hayley Mills plays the girl he lusts after; she is good in the role and cute as a button. The cast is rounded out with a couple of strong performers. Billie Whitelaw is Mill's mother, who is a lost soul who takes in extra money by sleeping with the guests, one of which is played by Barry Foster, an obnoxious fellow not a million miles away from the character he would play in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy. In fact the film as a whole owes a fair bit to Hitchcock itself, especially Psycho but also the likes of Marnie. Its emphasis on the psychological but with moments of violence and suspense certainly puts it in the Hitchcockian ball-park. Another similarity is the Bernard Herrmann soundtrack. In this one he once again shows he has an ear for the eerie with the disquieting main whistling theme which is very distinctive indeed. It was unsurprisingly and tediously stolen by Quentin 'I've seen lots of films and I want you to know about it' Tarantino for Kill Bill Vol.1.

I guess you would have to classify Twisted Nerve as a cult movie. One that seems to operate under the radar and one that is well worth checking out if you enjoy psychological thrillers.

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