Director: John Guillermin
Screenplay: Jonathan Latimer
Starring: Stewart Granger, Donna Reed, George Sanders, Gianna Maria Canale, Michael Shillo, Peter Dyneley, Hy Hazell
Country: United Kingdom/USA
Running time: 84 min
Year: 1958
BBFC Certificate: PG

British director John Guillermin had a strong career, which began with echoes of Alfred Hitchcock: both at one time were championed more in France than anywhere else. While Hitchcock needs no introduction, he’s the Master of Suspense with many of his films considered masterpieces, Guillermin is less known and revered. Yet he directed a number of films that themselves need little introduction: disaster epic The Towering Inferno, the all-star 1978 Agatha Christie adaptation Death on the Nile, and the 1976 version of King Kong.

Guillermin also directed a number of wonderful films in the 1950s, including the subject of this review, 1958’s The Whole Truth. The plot follows film producer Max Paulton (Granger), who is finding filmmaking difficult, particularly working with his star Gina Bertini (Canale). The pair had an affair which is now over, but Bertini refuses to accept this and she’s also a bit of a prima donna on set. Paulton encounters Carliss (Sanders), who claims to be a Scotland Yard inspector, who tells him that Bertini is dead, sparking a murder mystery. To make matters worse, Paulton is found to have a bloodstain on his shirt by his wife Carol (Reed), thus potentially implicating him in the murder.

That’s the basic set-up but it doesn’t tell you half of the story, with the script throwing plenty of curveballs, twists and turns at you during its runtime, some which wouldn’t feel out of place in a Hitchcock thriller. Half the fun is figuring out where the story will go next and, just when you think you’ve figured it out, the plot twists again.

The film was based on a play by Philip Mackie, itself based on a television play broadcast on the BBC three years prior to the film’s release. The film is very different to the play – not least replacing an English setting with the French Riviera – and the big screen version throws you straight in, with Paulton on the run through some very noir-esque streets, before we travel back in time to see what led to him being hunted. It’s a tale of murder, jealousy, duplicity, false accusations and failed marriages, which also features a glimpse behind the scenes of filmmaking in the 1950s.

The cast is simply wonderful, from Granger who doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going for half the film, to Reed whom I’ve always been a fan of (her performance in one of my favourite films, It’s a Wonderful Life, is a delight). Sanders is usually always excellent but here he steals the show: his character is sly, smarmy and at times sinister, and his scenes are simply brilliant. Special mention also for Italian actress Canale who vamps up her prima donna-like film star well and shines in her small number of scenes. But back to Granger and Sanders, there are some quite marvelous moments featuring the two together, including a particularly wonderfully acted scene about halfway in, which is like a cat and mouse game between the two actors. The scenes in which Granger and Sanders share the screen are amongst the best in the picture.

The production design is another highlight. The film is set on the French Riviera but was filmed on backlots and sets in London, aside from a few on-location set-up shots. It is testament to the production team that it feels authentic. Special mention too for Mischa Spoliansky’s breezy and jazzy score.

To come full circle in this review, there are a few similarities to some of Hitchcock’s thrillers in the fabulous finale; the wrong man on the run – which brings us back to the opening scenes that sparked the flashback – and a damsel in distress . There is an excellent finale, which I won’t spoil here. It’s also another example of some of the similarities to Hitchcock and his films which here include a lighter which proves to be a Hitchcockian MacGuffin.

In conclusion, The Whole Truth is a great, fast paced and fun mystery noir, which feature a fantastic cast at the top of their game, outstanding production design, some brilliant scenes and plenty of twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end.

Film:

The Whole Truth is released on limited edition Blu-ray by Powerhouse Films on the Indicator label on 17 June 2024 in a worldwide Blu-ray premiere. The picture quality is great, sharp and detailed throughout with the sumptuous black and white cinematography looking lovely. The audio is also fine and I had no issues with it.

INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES 

High Definition remaster

Original mono soundtrack

Audio commentary with film historians Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby (2024)

Sinister Smiles (2024, 18 mins): film historian Robert Shail discusses The Whole Truth, its making, personnel and reception, and the history of British production company Romulus Films

The BEHP Interview with Ronald Spencer (1991, 48 mins): archival audio recording, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring the assistant director in conversation with Joyce Robinson

Original theatrical trailer

Image gallery: promotional and publicity materials

New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

Limited edition exclusive 44-page booklet with a new essay by Barry Forshaw, archival interviews with George Sanders and Gianna Maria Canale, archival article on Canale and Donna Reed, extracts from the film’s campaign book, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits

World premiere on Blu-ray

Limited edition of 3,000 copies for the UK

Headlining the special features is an outstanding commentary from Jonathan Rigby and Kevin Lyons. The pair complement each other well and pack a lot into the track. They really enjoyed the film and that affection shines through. Hitchcock links are pointed out, including the original play’s similarities to Dial M for Murder. We start with a look at the play and comparisons and differences between that version and the film. The pair look at the actors, some of the filming locations and the crew and provide plenty of rich detail about all, including actors who played some very minor roles. Particular highlights are their discussions about Granger, Sanders, director Guillermin and background to composer Mischa Spoliansky. There’s loads to take away from a simply fabulous commentary. The standout extra by far and well worth your time.

Sinister Smiles sees film historian Robert Shail discuss The Whole Truth. The 18-minute piece provides some interesting details about Romulus Productions, which produced the film, and their creation, a look at the making of The Whole Truth and details about some of the actors and crew. Shail shares how the film was a return to Britain for Stewart Granger after failing to make it big in Hollywood. It was meant to be the first of six Romulus Productions for the star but he proved difficult to work with and The Whole Truth proved to be the only feature he made with the production firm.

Indicator have included a number of The British Entertainment History Project (BEHP) interviews on previous releases and this disc contains one with assistant director Ronald Spencer from 1991. It runs for 48 minutes over the film, like a commentary, and starts with a look at Spencer’s life and early years before moving onto his film career. Spencer is great to listen too and there’s plenty to glean from the track including what led to him entering films, his earliest productions, the roles he took on his earliest features, directors he worked with and an insight into the working day. He also gives his recollections of some of the British film studios where he worked, the Children’s Film Foundation which he wrote, directed and produced for, and the British Royal family whom he also worked with. There is much more to take away including some very relevant comments on the role of unions in the face of technology. A welcome inclusion.

The two minute trailer captures both the dark and at times fun tone of the film well.

The image gallery features more than 30 stills, lobby cards and posters, including one of Nadja Regin, who was originally cast as Gina Bertini. The still formed the visual basis for some of the film’s posters.

The 44-page booklet is a typically strong one from Indicator. It opens with an excellent essay by Barry Forshaw which opens and ends with a great run through of the career of director John Guillermin. The centrepiece of the essay looks at The Whole Truth, with some interesting analysis and background. Up next are some archival pieces, starting with an article from the Daily Mirror newspaper from 1957 which features star Sianna Maria Canale during the production of The Whole Truth. We also have a 1957 interview with George Sanders from the Nottingham Evening Post. A piece for the Evening Chronicle which contrasts the performances and roles of Donna Reed and Canale is also included. The booklet closes with a look at how the film was promoted, and some contemporary critic reviews of the film, which as Lyons and Rigby point out in the commentary was not a huge hit, likely due to it coming out the same week as the hugely successful A Night to Remember about the Titanic.

Indicator’s release of The Whole Truth is wonderful. The film is a treat with an edge of your seat plot that provides plenty of surprises and grips throughout and the disc is typically first class from Indicator with an excellent audio visual presentations and some welcome extras, headlined by a top class commentary. Fans of the film should be delighted with this brilliant package.

Disc/Package:

The Whole Truth - Indicator
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