In war time London, Reginald Parker (John Loder) is a stage actor who is in a play at the Mayfield Theater called “The Brighton Strangler”. Parker plays the lead role, Edward Gray, the Brighton Strangler. It is a film that was written by his fiancé Dorothy Kent (Rose Hobart). While Dorothy is off making final preparations for the wedding, Parker is finishing up his last few days and performances as the Strangler. Parker then plans on getting the train at Victoria Station and meeting his bride-to-be. As he is getting ready to leave the theater a German bomb is dropped on the building. Parker is hit on the head. At first the impact causes confusion in Parker’s brain. He then finds a ticket in his pocket for a luggage check at Victoria Station.
Parker’s wanderings take him to the railway station. He picks up his bag and gets in line at the ticket office. The woman in front of him asks the clerk for a ticket to Brighton. The effect of the concussion he experienced causes a change in his personality. Mentally he hears the dialogue from the play in his head. Parker begins to believe he is Edward Gray and the Brighton Strangler. He buys a ticket to Brighton.
The woman on the train is April Manby (June Duprez). He becomes acquainted with her and meets her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Manby (Gilbert Emery and Lydia Bilbrook). They invite him to a small party for Christmas Eve. Now fully believing he is the Brighton Strangler Parker begins living out the character from the play. In the play Gray kills the mayor and the chief inspector of police. Using the party as an alibi Parker kills Mayor Herman Brandon (Ian Wolfe).
Parker finds out that April is secretly married to an American soldier, Lt. Bob Carson (Michael St. Angel). April uses Parker as an alibi while she is secretly seeing Bob. Parker in turn uses April as an alibi when committing his crimes. Parker next sets his sights on Chief Inspector W. R. Allison (Miles Mander). But Bob begins to feel that there is something not quite right with his wife’s new friend.
“The Brighton Strangler” was released in 1945 and was directed by Max Nosseck. It is a low budget American poverty row crime movie and a film noir.
John Loder as the strangler is good at slipping between amicable stranger and maniacal strangler. You almost feel sorry for him since what he became is not who he really is. His injury has him believing he is the character from the play. Although it’s not a new theme, it is done effectively.
The film includes some great character actors of the time. My favorites are Miles Mander as Chief Inspector Allison and Ian Wolfe as the mayor of Brighton. Although Wolfe is on screen for such a short time. At first, I didn’t recognize June Duprez, who played April, as Vera Claythorne from the Agatha Christie film “And Then There Were None” 1945. There is a quiet innocence about her that makes her damsel in distress character even more appealing.
As for the American actor Michael St. Angel. Who plays Lt. Bob Carson, I thought that British filmmakers made Americans look ridiculous but American filmmakers trying to look like British filmmakers are worse. His ridiculous American slang made him look like an idiot. Still, the movie ended up being a nice little thriller.
Loder’s strangler character is named Gray on the theater poster but Grey on the news article talking about the bombing of the theater.