Murder on Monday (1952)

  • Year: 1952
  • Released: 07 Oct 1953
  • Country: United Kingdom
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  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: English
  • MPA Rating: N/A
  • Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
  • Runtime: 85 min
  • Writer: Anatole de Grunwald, R.C. Sherriff
  • Director: Ralph Richardson
  • Cast: Ralph Richardson, Margaret Leighton, Jack Hawkins
  • Keywords: post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd), british noir,

Murder on Monday Storyline

David Preston, a bank official, goes missing for twenty-four hours and has no memory of the lost time. When he learns that the steward of his local club has implicated him in a robbery, and has been found murdered, Preston finds he has no alibi. The police want him to account for the lost hours.—

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Murder on Monday Movie Reviews

Amnesia, murder and a sweet married couple

Ralph Richardson arrives home from work at seven as he does every day, where he finds his wife Margaret Leighton sobbing. When she shows him the newspaper, it hits him: it’s not Monday evening but Tuesday evening! He’s been missing for an entire day, and he has no recollection of where he’s been. While trying to figure out what happened with family doctor Jack Hawkins, they get news that the safe of Richardson’s social club has been robbed, and a steward at the club murdered. Inspector Campbell Singer is investigating and all clues seem to lead to Richardson…

Based on a play by R.C. Sheriff (and inspired by personal experiences) that also starred Richardson (‘The Fallen Idol’), this is the sole movie that he directed. Which is quite a remarkable feat as he’s in almost every scene. He does a very nice job tho, both in front of and behind the camera. He gives a great restrained performance and Leighton (‘The Good Die Young’) is perfectly cast as his wife. Together they make one of the sweetest couples I’ve seen lately, with some very touching scenes (esp the one where he tries to prepare her for life without him, while having tea and toast). The resolution of Richardson’s predicament is quite satisfying and also adds depth to the movie and Richardson’s psyche. It also shows how an innocent little white lie between husband and wife (and this one really is innocent), can have grave consequences…

Richardson’s directing and the camera work by Jack Hilyard (‘The Bridge On The River Kwai’) and Edward Scaife (‘Night of The Demon’) is straight-forward and devoid of flourishes but efficient and solid. It’s not the most exciting movie ever made as it is primarily dialogue-driven, but it’s a good uber-British stiff upper lip take on an amnesia noir thriller, with excellent and touching performances by Richardson and Leighton. Recommended. 7/10

British Gold Nugget from the 1950’s

Ralph Richardson, who both directs and acts in this film, has taken a simple story that depicts a short period in the life of a middle-class couple in post-war England whose routine is suddenly disrupted by the memory lapse of the husband. The story is brought to life by the acting of the three main actors – Richarson and Margaret Leighton as the couple and the medical doctor, Jack Hawkins.

A veteran of World War II (1939-45), the dutiful husband is stricken with an anxiety attack that causes him to relive his days in battle. When this mental episode is over, he cannot remember what happened for a full 24-hour period. Husband and wife are perplexed and anxious by this sudden turn of events. They turn to their understanding family doctor for an explanation. The doctor, Jack Hawkins, is sympathetic and not overly worried but eager to find out the source of the problem.

As it turns out, a theft and murder occurred that seem to implicate the husband or so the couple fears. Lies and cover-ups complicate the matter and the couple become so upset that they make things worse for themselves. The couple are so used to their routine that a sudden and unexplained twist becomes exaggerated. The story presents us with a puzzle and the reaction of two decent but somewhat docile human beings, who feel they will be unfairly targeted by the authorities. However, the police go about their work very calmly and before long everything is explained.

The movie is a throwback to a time when ordinary people enjoyed simple pleasures like going to their club, or taking in the “pictures” and growing their chrysanthemums in the adjoining greenhouse garden…so very British.

It is these very ordinary people that I have a great sympathy and admiration for in our often self-serving world. Nothing extraordinary about the movie or the couple but almost 60 years on, the acting still makes it a delight to watch.

Strangely unsettling

Many seem to dismiss this movie as a mild matinée entertainment. I found it very unsettling as the story deliberately starts with a normal, boring situation only to depart from normality in an abrupt and disturbing way to offer a glare into the abyss of the human psyche. The first two or three minutes the viewer is given time to settle down for something that looks like a comedy. A cheerful caricature of a meek office clerk (Ralph Richardson) comes home. He meets his wife desperate, she tells him he has disappeared for 24 hours. The clerk is not aware of that.

Now, this is a standard situation for a comedy. But in this movie the couple in question is simply shattered. Time you cannot account for is regarded by them as abnormal, a potential sin. Distrust arises, the wife distrusts her husband and, what’s worse, the husband distrusts himself. The situation gets worse when the clerk learns that a member of a club he belongs to was murdered during the time in question. In desperation he goes to see a doctor (Jack Hawkins) and tells him of his memory loss and the murder. He also tells him that he thinks he might have committed the murder. As the doctor tries to laugh that off the clerk says: But I absolutely hated that man. He does that with an unexpected vehemence that it really made me jump.

The riddle can be solved and the story has a happy ending. The clerk’s amnesia was caused by subconscious memories of bombing raids, a backfiring car made him go into shock for 24 hours, luckily in a „safe place” (a pub). As a matter of fact, the discovery of this hidden vulnerability is horrific and was probably not uncommon the time this movie was made. And the way the main protagonist practically bends over double to put blame on himself is heart-wrenching. Ralph Richardson gives a deep, feeling performance in this unusual psychological drama about guilt, trust, order and disorder. He also directed.