Investigative journalist Lewis Forrester and his female passenger are killed outright when their speeding car plunges over a cliff in Italy, on the road to Milan. Back home, in dear old Blighty, Tim’s younger brothers, artist Tim, and pilot Dave (who seem to live together) are told the news. Interpol Inspector Colby suspects that Lewis’s death was not an accident, but has no proof, just a gut instinct. Rather strangely Tim is later hired by the dead girl’s father, Joe Smith, to paint her portrait from a photograph of her and from one of her favourite dresses. When one of Tim’s regular models ends up being killed, while wearing the dress, in Tim’s apartment, things start to get very strange indeed. With Tim suspected of actually killing the girl, although he was out at the time of the murder, it falls on our rather unlucky artist to get to the bottom of things and fast.
Portrait of Alison, which is based on the story by Francis Durbridge, is quite the Hitchcockian tale, featuring double crosses, mistaken identity and a pretty woman in trouble, rescued by a rather reluctant hero. It’s all fairly routine in that sense, but the McGuffin here is a postcard apparently sent by the deceased brother to Tim, which then goes missing, but might be the piece of the puzzle which can prove our unlikely hero’s innocence.
I found myself quite enjoying this rather stagey thriller, and even found myself appreciating some of its idiosyncrasies, mainly due to the film’s age. We see the police inspector talking extra loudly and slowly when addressing his Italian counterparts, and people being referred to as ‘swell’, and we hear lots of overly dramatic music for some, frankly, not very dramatic scenes.
But after a fairly slow start, once poor Jill, the flaky model, has been murdered, things really pick up and we get taken on a fun ride alongside our token American in a British film. It all culminates in quite a cool fight and dramatic denouement, with everything being wrapped up quite neatly.
Many of my criticisms for this film would have been valid when it was made but you can’t really compare films of this vintage with modern stuff, well not like-for-like anyway. Again, one slightly frustrating thing was the sound, which was a little soft at times, but not annoyingly so, although the picture quality was good throughout. Although I enjoyed the acting (not the best, but passable), there were a few clunky lines in the script, which had me wincing, including one fine fellow threatening another by saying: ’I’ll brain you!’
Portrait of Alison has 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. Here they’ve done a good job with the brand new transfer of the print and it generally looks good in its as-exhibited theatrical ratio.
Extras-wise there’s a stills gallery (13 stills), which include three US posters, a theatrical trailer with no words, just music, and an alternative opening titles sequences showing its alternative title, namely ‘Postmark for Danger’, which is probably the better name for it.