Struggling with a tony British accent, the late Anthony Perkins does his best to energize A DEMON IN MY VIEW, a boring psychodrama that utterly wrecks the gripping Ruth Rendell novel on which it's based.
For years, Arthur Johnson (Perkins) has kept his dirty, sadistic little secrets to himself. Going a little mad on occasion and killing a nurse or a hooker, Arthur usually gets his kicks making love in his cellar to a mannequin dressed up as his mother. Mentally taxed to the max with memories of
his homicidal impulses, this depraved mama's boy is unhinged when a second Mr. Johnson named Anthony (Uwe Bohm) moves into his apartment building. Smitten with a married woman he left behind in Germany, Anthony has traveled to London to write about the elusive serial killer. When the emotionally
stable Anthony unwittingly gives away Arthur's beloved dummy to kids planning a Guy Fawkes Day bonfire, Arthur steps up a campaign of intercepting his alter ego's mail, leading Anthony to believe that his married lover has dumped him.
Breathing a sigh of relief when a neighbor is accused of the unsolved crimes, Arthur makes the brash mistake of attacking a new, long-haired victim who turns out to be a man with a photographic memory of his assailant's face. A police sketch is soon displayed on TV. As the fates close in, the
deranged Arthur's mail trickery ends when lady fair Helen Schweizer (Sophie Ward) arrives and redeclares her love for Anthony. However, when Helen's angry husband Roger (Hans Peta Hallwachs) turns up, he mistakes Arthur Johnson for his wife's sweetheart and blasts the wrong man away.
Skimming the storyline with its provocative elements of letter-crossed adulterers, sado-sexual flashback, and the juxtaposition of the two vastly disparate Mr. Johnsons, one might assume that this film would achieve some level of psychological penetration. Wrong assumption. Snail-paced and ineptly
directed, A DEMON IN MY VIEW fails to plumb the psychological depths of either character and never develops any sort of symbiosis between the two men. It's as if the filmmakers reasoned that the novel's premise was intrinsically intriguing, then proceeded to concentrate solely on the exposition.
In terms of interconnectedness, the two Mr. Johnsons and the actors playing them might have been edited in from two different films. Where's the eerie doppleganger effect? Where's the sense of one man's identity being usurped by another's? What is sorely missing (even if one overlooks the
invisibility of atmosphere and incredible lack of suspense) is the absence of pathos for Mr. Johnson. Even if he's a killer, we're meant to feel sympathy for him because of his dark childhood. Somehow there is no guiding intelligence behind this film: it's a cut-and-paste job produced and directed
with little flair or depth.
Lastly, what an unfitting swan song this represents for actor Anthony Perkins, whose classic performance in PSYCHO overshadowed superb work (FEAR STRIKES OUT, FRIENDLY PERSUASION) that preceded it and underrated performances (PRETTY POISON, CRIMES OF PASSION) that followed it. (Violence, sexualsituations, adult situations.)
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