Director: Ralph Richardson
Screenplay: Anatole De Grunwald
Starring: Ralph Richardson, Margaret Leighton, Jack Hawkins, Meriel Forbes
Running Time: 82 mins
BBFC Classification: U
Based on the play by R. C. Sherriff, which later became a West End hit, Home at Seven finds mild-mannered bank clerk, David Preston (played with a light touch by Ralph Richardson – who also directs) returning home at 7pm on a Tuesday, only to greeted by his wife (Margaret Leighton), distraught with worry. Apparently he’d not been home the previous evening, hence she hasn’t seen him since he’d left for work on the Monday morning. It’s only when she shows him that day’s newspaper does he believe her that it’s no longer Monday.
It turns out that David has no recollection at all of his whereabouts since he left work at 5pm the previous evening and it’s not until things become serious – with a robbery and a murder having been committed locally during that period of amnesia – that he and his equally perplexed wife find that they must get to the bottom of what really happened to him, and fast, before he’s arrested and much worse.
Whilst a bit on the talky side – it was based on a stage play, after all – Home at Seven is an engaging thriller that has the viewer on the back foot right from the off. Whilst we really want to believe that David is innocent of any serious crimes, as the evidence stacks up against him we find ourselves doubting his good character, as much as he himself does towards the final denouement.
Although the film hasn’t dated particularly well – it’s all a little bit too home counties snug and twee – the film is driven along by Richardson’s central performance as the confused David Preston. He’s ably supported by an excellent cast, particularly Jack Hawkins, playing his smart and socially aware doctor and Leighton, who plays his put-upon housewife, who really is as sweet as they come. In fact it’s their very rose-tinted and ‘English’ relationship that makes one’s heart melt. Some of the later scenes, where the two of them try to discuss a future without David in it, are both bittersweet and heart-breaking in their very ‘properly English’ way. And although their very tender relationship seems so unlikely nowadays, it’s this special connection between the two main protagonists that encourages the viewer to get behind them one hundred per cent.
I think the main strength of this film, aside from the strong performances, is the fact that it’s all relatively believable. We’ve all, at some point, doubted ourselves and our own perception of how an event unfolded, particularly if our memories are blurred through time or alcohol, hence it’s not unwarranted that a person suffering from amnesia might think the worst of themselves if the evidence was stacked up against them.
So if you like your mysteries served up with a small glass of sherry and a nicely cut cucumber sandwich, you’re sure to get a kick out of this mild suspense feature. They certainly don’t make them like this anymore.
Home by Seven has recently been released on DVD and is being distributed by Network Distributing who are, to their credit, currently releasing lots of these rarer British film titles.
If you’re listening Network, other films you might want to track down are Quentin Lawrence’s The Trollenberg Terror (1958) and Cash on Demand (1961); Dilemma (1961) – directed by Peter Maxwell; and I start Counting (1969) – directed by David Greene.
The only extras on the review disc were nine images in a gallery, including a poster for the film, under its alternative title of ‘Murder on Monday’.