BLACKOUT (aka: MURDER BY PROXY) (director: Terence Fisher; screenwriters: Richard H. Landau/based on the novel Murder by Proxy by Helen Nielsen; cinematographer: Jimmy Harvey; editor: Maurice Roots; music: Ivor Slaney; cast: Dane Clark (Casey Morrow), Belinda Lee (Phyllis Brunner), Betty Ann Davies (Alicia Brunner), Andrew Osborn (Lance Gorden), Eleanor Summerfield (Maggie Doone), Harold Lang (Travis), Jill Medford (Miss Nadris), Michael Golden (Inspector Johnson), Alfie Bass (Ernie), Alvis Maben (Lita Huntley), Nora Gorden (Casey's Mother); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Michael Carreras; VCI Entertainment; 1954-UK)

"It helps that Dane Clark stars."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

A cheaply made Hammer minor film noir filmed in England, that makes no sense but has a few of the good moves of a better made film noir. Brit director Terence Fisher ("Horror of Dracula"/"The Gorgon"/"Island of Terror"), recognized for his gory films and restarting the cycle of classic horror films with color remakes, navigates around a muddled plot and a poor script by Richard H. Landau to make it at least tolerable fare. It helps that Dane Clark stars. This is just his kind of grim and gritty pic. He reminds me of someone who usually looks like he's waking up from a drunken slumber and usually pours his guts out to come up with a spirited performance no matter how bad a film he's in--something he admirably does in this second-rate film. Without Dane, this pic is a loser. The crime drama is based on the novel Murder by Proxy by Helen Nielsen.

Casey Morrow (Dane Clark) is a down-and-out American war vet in London, whose Polish Chicago mom (Nora Gorden), whom he hasn't seen for 8 years, moved to London when she married an English pub owner. At the upscale Cloud Room pub, the drunken Casey is propositioned by a rich young beautiful blonde, who offers him £500 to marry her. The unemployed drifter tells the mystery woman he's broke, but takes the strange offer even if she gives no reason for it. When Casey wakes up sober the next morning, he's somehow in the artist's studio of a stranger--the sweet aspiring artist Maggie Doone (Eleanor Summerfield) and can't remember how he got there because he blacked out last night. Casey notices that Maggie has painted the portrait of Casey's AWOL wife, who modeled for her using a false identity. An alarmed Casey also finds blood on his coat, and when out in the street reads the newspaper headline 'Darius Brunner murdered: Heiress daughter missing.' Casey thereby discovers that his bride's father had been murdered the night before and that his wife is a heiress named Phyllis Brunner (Belinda Lee).

The heiress turns up again in Maggie's flat and clears hubby of the murder, as he was worried that she had framed him. But she pretends they married, without telling him the truth. The pretend couple then forego a honeymoon to try and catch her father's killer. Phyllis suspects her obsessive fiancé Lance Gorden (Andrew Osborn), a prominent but oily young lawyer, who won't stop pestering her about marriage and is someone she never completely trusted even though her mom (Betty Ann Davies) has complete confidence in him and has made him the family lawyer since separating from her husband. It turns out the reason Phyllis marries Casey is so that Lance can't marry her in the wedding set to take place in three weeks and thereby hopes to prevent the slimy Lance from getting his hands on her money (it was that kind of an absurd pic, that made as much sense as a drunk drinking himself to death).

Before Casey can clear up things, he uncovers three murders and learns that the murders are connected with a scheme to set up false charities so that the crooks can milk Phyllis's dad of his fortune.

I enjoyed this pic only because it was so wacky, even if the story was a crock and its execution so carelessly carried out; it, nevertheless, had a lot gumption and seemed a lot better than it actually was.

REVIEWED ON 8/5/2010       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"