A homage to Hitchcock must be one of the most difficult things to successfully pull off. From story, to style, to technique; it brings with it a raft of expectations and heights to scale. Yet, when attempted, it always intrigues and there is the hope that we may just see something exceptional.
Director Christopher Presswell takes the Hitchcock lead in his second feature, Candlestick, blending together inspiration from Psycho and Rope. The plot revolves around a small group of characters and the majority of the action takes place in the confines of one apartment. After a truly Psycho-esque opening credit scene, the homage continues with a sweeping shot over London and screen titles telling us the city, date and time. Cut to an apartment bedroom where we find Jack and Vera, post their afternoon tryst. It’s a wonderful opener and one that draws a wry smile, setting up a level of anticipation for what is to come. However, this is not a Norman Bates story, so leaving the Psycho comparisons behind, events take a turn towards Rope.
Having established that Jack and Vera are having an affair, we then learn that Vera’s husband (Frank) is Jack’s best friend. Its a nice touch. Jack is clearly a self conceited, arrogant man and when he deliberately conceals Vera’s lost earring from her, you know that he has a dark plan in mind. Having invited Frank (Nigel Thomas) and Vera (Isla Ure) to dinner that evening, along with his uncle (Major Burns), Jack then invites Inspector Marcus Evans and the scene is set for the game he plans to control.
Andrew Fitch (as Jack) portrays an intriguing central character who works effectively as the self obsessed egoist, using Frank and Vera as his pawns. The light humoured, all-knowing voice of the group is provided by Major Burns (Tom Knight), who also acts as Jack’s sparring partner; a role he relishes. I couldn’t help but think that things may have sizzled further if Jack had been given an accomplice or co-conspirator, but perhaps that would have played too far down the Rope plot line. As the evening continues, Jack plants the idea in Frank’s mind that his wife is having an affair and then sits back to watch the fireworks unfold. He clearly enjoys the situation and the power he wields, particularly over his apparent friend.
At times, the action does suffer from feeling rather stagey and unnatural. There is a slightly contrived feel to the confined environment of the apartment and the characters move around and respond in what seems a rather accommodating manner, allowing the plot to follow a certain path. Having said that, there are some lovely Hitchcockian high shots, allowing us to step back and watch over the action in a voyeuristic manner. Had the film been created for the stage it would undoubtedly have worked extremely well. It’s a solid concept and one that is fun to follow. Unfortunately, on film, it all feels slightly expository and I couldn’t get away from the feeling that I was watching a story being told. It’s a shame, as it would have been wonderful to completely lose yourself within this dark, wry tale.
Director: Christopher Presswell
Cast: Andrew Fitch, Isla Ure, Nigel Thomas, Tom Knight