When the sister of criminal mastermind The Ringer is found drowned, unscrupulous lawyer Maurice Meister (Herbert Lom) is blamed and Scotland Yard suspect The Ringer is out to kill him. Meister hires an ex-con (William Hartnell) as his bodyguard, while the Yard put the house under surveillance. But can they unmask The Ringer (who is a master of disguise) before he succeeds in his quest for vengeance?
Based on the oft-performed 1925 play, The Gaunt Stranger, by famed crime writer Edgar Wallace and filmed a number of times in the 1930s, this classy 1952 update features a host of recognisable faces, including an eloquent Herbert Lom as slimy lawyer Meister, a pre-Doctor Who William Hartnell as his Cockney rhyming bodyguard, and Donald Wolfit as a forensics expert who turns out to be (well, its pretty obvious from the outset) The Ringer. And providing the colour to the black and white who-will-do-it is a young Denholm Elliott and a ravishing Mai Zetterling as young lovers caught up in the intrigue, and Dora Bryan as Hartnell’s hilarious high-pitched wife.
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It might be predictable and stagy for modern audiences, but what makes the vintage thriller worth a revisit is seeing these great British characters actors going full throttle with Val Valentine and Lesley Storm’s wordy script. The other reason of course is that it also marks the directorial debut of Guy Hamilton, who’s best known for lensing four James Bond films.