Diagnosis: Murder (1975) Starring Jon Finch, Sir Christopher Lee, Judy Geeson, Tony Beckley, Dilys Hamlett, Jane Merrow, Colin Jeavons, David Trevena, Adrian Cairns, Daphne Neville, Hugh Smith-Marriott, Hubert Tucker, David Langford.
Directed by Sidney Hayers.
Running time: 83 minutes.
“You really believe I killed my wife!”
An obnoxious police inspector named Lomax (Finch) investigates sleazy and mysterious psychiatrist Dr.Stephen Hayward (Lee) suspected of having killed his wife Julia (Hamlett)who is nowhere to be found and may not even be dead.
But a serious of anonymous notes state straight out that he murdered his wife. Someone is determined that the police become fixated on the rude, indignant and downright creepy shrink. Hayward doesn’t win a lot of sympathy and for most of his life never really cared to. But being a jerk and being a murderer are not synonymous.
Placing Hayward under surveillance 24/7 and combing every inch of his property the cops find nothing. Ordered to drop the investigation the real plot begins to peel away.
Dr.Hayward’s mistress/secretary Helen (Geeson) does some investigating on her own with unexpected results. Whether she will reveal what she knows goes beyond simply worrying about her own complicity. She shares something in common with Lomax and through that he has insight into what is really happening.
They are both having affairs with married people but his morality interferes with his relationship and hers does not. The juxtaposition is thus not between killer and detective but rather between detective and accomplice. In that respect it reflects the kind of police work that is often done but seldom properly dramatized.
Finch was too young to portray the cynical, edgy alcoholic police inspector but the quality of the performance takes some of the edge of the casting choice. The mystery is appealing on a lot of levels but the brisk run time suggests they had room for more and didn’t use it.
The movie poster used to market this film suggests they wanted audiences to think that it was horror which it is not and which it at no time resembles. It is more mystery/thriller but audiences of the day had come to know Christopher Lee mostly as a horror film star and producers evidently wanted to exploit that. The irony is that Sir Christopher was looking to carve out a niche beyond horror around the time this was made.
Jon Finch, Judy Geeson and Tony Beckley would have done their share of horror titles before this one became available on home video which probably confused a lot of audiences who rented it thinking it was horror when it fights the niche of mystery/thriller more properly.