Directed by: Bryan Forbes
Staring: Kim Stanley, Richard Attenborough, Nanette Newman, Mark Eden & Patrick Magee
Description: A medium and her husband stage a kidnapping in order for her to pretend to solve the crime and achieve fame.
I’m currently just finishing up the second week of our social distancing here in Ontario Canada. My husband is working from home in the basement and I’m trying to stay occupied. Low and behold while scanning through channels I landed on this doozy of a move on the TCM channel. I might have missed the first ten or fifteen minutes, but I had no issues catching up and getting completely drawn into the plot.
To start with this movie stars Kim Stanley and Richard Attenborough (you know John Hammond from Jurassic Park). Kim’s character, Myra Savage is a medium and does seances in her house. Somehow, again I missed the opening, she persuades her husband Richard, William Savage, to kidnap a child so that she could solve the crime and achieve fame – just as the description of the movie about says. However, as the movie progresses you get to see that Myra Savage isn’t all there up in the head.
So when I started watching I was at the part when William is in the process of kidnapping the young girl. He must have drugged her, given how lifeless her body was as he moved her from a car to a motorbike with a cab on the side. They bring the child home to their house and pretend to be doctor and nurse while locking the girl inside and claiming she is sick and in a hospital. Actually, that’s not a bad ruse for a child, though when the girl does awake she is very sharp and points out a lot of inconsistencies. Like, Myra, playing the nurse, doesn’t leave the thermometer in as long as her past doctors, and later says that William doesn’t smell like a doctor. So it sounds like the girl has been sick recently and even tells them she already had the measles as they tried to use that as justification for her environment.
So while they keep the girl placated as much as possible, Myra starts playing her role as helpful medium to the child’s missing parents. She arrives at their house maybe a day or two later – after the newspapers announce the disappearance/missing child claiming to have a dream concerning their child. The mother is quite upset and is taken in quite quickly, especially given Myra’s comforting words that the girl is alive and well taken care of. The father is defiantly on the skeptic end and waves of her vision. But the seed has been planted and Myra has put her name out to the family, which seems to be step one in the plan.
Of course there is so much more to this. The Savages create a ransom note, and set up a scheme to do the drop off and pick up of the money as well as moving the child so that the police would not suspect anything when they came around for an initial interview. Yes, that bit was interesting. So when Myra visited the family of the missing girl, it was already swarmed by police and detectives and she left her card behind for them to call upon later. As much as Myra seemed a little crazy in her planning and set up of the crime, she did think a lot of things through and prepared for it. Her poor husband on the other hand was tasked on doing all the dirty work. Eventually everything works out and they bury the money in the back yard. There is nothing else mentioned about the money or ransom, it was never about the money, but the fame Myra wanted, but any kidnapper would ask for a ransom.
Let’s take a break here and talk about Myra’s character. Boy did that lady ooze psychotic. From when I started watching, Myra always assured her husband that they were only just ‘borrowing’ a child, and repeated that nothing bad was going to happen. There were also times when she mentioned that the girl will settle down eventually like a pet in new surroundings. They way she waved things, serious things and crimes off were quite unreal. She also continued around the house with a smile, edging on devious, but also angelic as well that really freaked me out whenever she tried to calm her husband’s growing nerves and worry. You could tell things were starting to get off track when on the first meeting the child in the nurses outfit – her face covered by a mask – when she leaves and the husband asked why she didn’t say to the girl that she’ll be going home soon. She claims she forgot, but I think that is a pivotal step that already then her plans were changing in her mind. I’m not sure if it was because the girl asked too many questions and poking holes in their hospital ruse, or if she realized this was never going to end well.
Let’s get back to the plot of the movie. So they managed to get the ransom money and escape without detection. Myra showed a detective around an empty house to their satisfaction before William returns with the child. However, twist, the girl now starts to show a fever. Myra again waves this off, refuses to call a doctor, and decides to handle it on her own. Yes, she did get medicine but she didn’t seem overly concerned or worried, especially when the girl’s fever gets worse.
By now we reach another of her seance circles and the mother of the missing child arrives looking for answers. Which is exactly what Myra desired. As centre of attention she does a marvellous show of telling the mother a little of the person who took her, the motorbike she was transported in and that she was surrounded by three people, laughing and playing. Giving the mother hope that she is alive and well. All the while the girl in the next room over, being watched by William starts to call out for her mother. Unsurprisingly nobody in the next room hears it. Myra ends the seance with a fainting scene, announcing someone is dying. However when asked as she is escorted away, she shakes her head and says nobody’s dead.
William escorts everyone out of the house and turns to find Myra coming downstairs looking proud, happy and excited. She mentions Arthur – who we take as her son – who loves the girl staying in his room, and that she doesn’t want to leave. Well, William starts to realize at this point his wife has gone off the deep end, or maybe I learn that as I’m watching. She goes on to say that they must give her to Arthur. We learn in this highly emotional scene that Arthur was a still born baby of them, and that Myra had never seen him, that he never grew up in their house and that everything she says Arthur says is really her. Everything was her.
Yup that’s right this has turned a kidnapping crime into a murder. Well attempted murder.
Their conversation is cut short when the girl calls down to them, appearing at the top of the stairs. William quickly ushers her back into her room, telling her that she’ll be going home soon. Well, Myra stares up at William and with a pleading, crazy look tells him he has to do it now, she’s seen his face.
OMG, I don’t know if Myra’s just crazy or manipulative. I think a little of both. Her facial reactions, her candidacy about killing the girl is just way too much for me. I couldn’t help but just drop my jaw when that scene finished.
We next see William dropping the girl, drugged once again, in the middle of the woods. Thankfully not far from a camp of scouts nearby. We learn later that he did this on purpose. Back at home Myra is once more in happy spirits, telling him it wasn’t that hard, and that she’s now with them forever, and that she promised to do everything to make him happy from here on out. She also starts discussing moving away after all this has ended. Which again leads me to think she’s not completely crazy? Just somewhere in between? Her whole demeanour is just jarring.
It’s raining and the police come once more to talk, and in fact to do a seance with her given the information she had given the mother just the other day. Myra is a little startled but I don’t think anyone could say no at that moment. William is completely worried and doing his best to hold things together. They do the seance – thus the title of the movie – and well, this is when Myra completely goes unhinge. I’m not sure if it’s a mental breakdown or what, but she starts to talk like a child, about not wanting to leave, not wanting to go downstairs, about staying and then she starts rocking what looks like a baby in her arms. Yeah, completely unhinged.
It seems the police already knew everything, just looking for more evidence or an admission which through Myra’s seance they seemed to get everything they need. When William asks about the girl, they said she is safe and that is when William tells them that he placed her there to be found on purpose.
There isn’t much more to this movie, it ends with that last scene. Which I think is a powerful ending. Though part of me wanted to know what would happen to Myra, obviously William will be tried and found guilty of kidnapping, but to all of us he was completely put up to it by his wife. Still, what’s a movie without some form of question at the end?
I loved this movie. I love it what I find these older gems, which is why I like to scroll by TCM while looking for movies to watch. There’s always that one that you shrug and watch and find out how amazing it ends up being. I would definitely suggest watching this, if only for Kim and Richard’s acting. Their scene together are amazing and can really show you how much of an unreliable narrator we have with Myra Savage.
With this social distancing and quarantine going on, I hope everyone is staying safe, washing their hands and maybe finding some new gems of movies to watch on their own time.