The Upturned Glass (1947)
A doctor dispenses death and healing with blind impartiality.
The Upturned Glass is directed by Lawrence Huntington and written by John Monaghan and Pamela Kellino. It stars James Mason, Rosamund John, Pamela Kellino, Ann Stephens, Morland Graham and Brefni O'Rorke. Music is by Bernard Stevens and cinematography by Reginald H. Wyer. Plot finds Mason as Michael, a brilliant surgeon who falls in love with Emma Wright (John), the mother of a young girl whose eyesight he saves. Trouble is that Emma is married to a man who works overseas a lot and it's a relationship that ultimately has to end. When word comes that Emma has been tragically killed after falling out of a top floor window at her home, Michael decides to investigate further. It's an investigation that leads Michael down very dark roads.....
What a time to go buy a house, you must be demented!
One of the last British films Mason made before leaving for America to work contractually for MGM, The Upturned Glass is a Hitchcockian like thriller that's tinted with a film noir edge. With Mason co-producing and his then wife, Kellino, co-starring and co-writing, it was very much a personal project. The film finds the "Mason's" experimenting with a flashback structure that is in turn covered by a Mason narration. Always easy to follow, the picture does however shy away from offering up easy answers, purposely leaving some things tantalisingly dangling in the air. It also retains a murder mystery interest before diving head first into that of a study of a psychological break down. There's some devilment in the narrative, even a bit of cheeky daring that shows its hand once Mason's lecture that opens the film is seen in the light it was meant to be.
Today I sat in judgement.
With Wyer's photography dealing in shadows and smoky lenses, and Huntington showing a keen eye for atmospheric composition during scenes involving the empty house and the village chapel, there's enough visual treats for the film noir crowd to feast on. Into the equation as well is the vagaries of fate, a theme so prominent in the great noir pictures of the past, the outcome of this picture is defined by a decision Michael makes, the irony of which is as snappy as a crocodile. The finale has been lamented by others due to its suddeness, to that I have to say they missed the point, it's suitably cold and closes the picture perfectly. The title has even been called into question, some even saying it has nothing to do with the film or is unfitting? It all fits during the best period of dialogue between Michael and Dr. Farrell (O'Rorke)! I do believe this is a film worthy of reappraisal by a more genre compliant audience.
It's not overtly film noir, but the blood line is there, and with Mason on simply irresistible form this is highly recommended to fans of noir and Hitchcockian flavoured black and whites. 7.5/10
MPI's Region 1 DVD is a decent print, some snap and pop from time to time on the edges, and the sound mix is always audible if not pristine throughout.