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The Man Who Haunted Himself

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Man Who Haunted Himself
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBasil Dearden
Produced byMichael Relph
Screenplay by
Based onnovel The Strange Case of Mr Pelham by Anthony Armstrong
Music byMichael J. Lewis
CinematographyTony Spratling
Edited byTeddy Darvas
Distributed byWarner-Pathé (UK)
Release date
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£400,000[1] or £275,000[2]

The Man Who Haunted Himself is a 1970 British psychological thriller film written and directed by Basil Dearden (his final film prior to his death by automobile accident in 1971) and starring Roger Moore. It was based on the 1957 novel The Strange Case of Mr Pelham by Anthony Armstrong,[3] and is a variation on the Jekyll and Hyde story.

In 2011 Moore said his role in the film was his favourite. "It was a film I actually got to act in, rather than just being all white teeth and flippant and heroic."[4]


While driving home from his London office in his Rover P5B, Harold Pelham, a director of Freeman, Pelham & Dawson, a marine technology company and very conservative creature of habit, seems to undergo a sudden personality change and starts to drive both fast and recklessly on his way home, imagining himself in a sports car, and ending in a serious high-speed crash. On the operating table he briefly suffers clinical death, after which there briefly appear to be two heartbeats on the monitor.

After he recovers from the accident Pelham notices odd things occurring and people acting strangely, and he gradually finds his life in turmoil. Friends, colleagues and acquaintances claim to have seen him in places where he has no memory of being or doing things he can't recall, involving behaving in rash ways quite unlike his usual character. When he gets home from work, a friend is at his house for a drink which he doesn't recall arranging, and an attractive girl at the company swimming pool casts him a knowing glance. At bedtime he and his wife have a somewhat tense but amicable discussion about their recent lack of a love life. His wife also notices a mysterious silver car (a Lamborghini Islero) which she sees parked outside their house, but gives it no further thought. The driver of the car is then seen lighting a cigarette and snapping the match stick in half after he blows it out, exactly as Pelham does.

There seems to be a spy at work trying to force a merger with a rival company. Pelham drives to the research and development centre in Rugby to try and see where the leak began.

Soon he suspects there is a "double" masquerading as him. On a night out at the company club with his wife, he hopes to energise their relationship by indulging her request to go gambling, but he is tense and clearly not interested. As they are about to leave he bumps into the attractive girl, who sees his wife a short distance away and says "I didn't know you were married." His wife notices the exchange and is furious, suspecting the worst. She threatens to leave him. He finds out where the girl lives and confronts her; confused, she makes it clear that "he" was having an affair with her. He angrily denies the affair; the woman, hurt and almost hysterical, yells at him to leave.

At his usual the barber‘s he is told, "I cut your hair yesterday".

At work Pelham finds out that apparently he was supporting a merger that he now opposes with the board. He confronts an executive of the other company, who explains how the two of them had clandestinely arranged the deal in a series of meetings, to "his" (the double's) benefit as well as the company's, when "he" revealed a "top secret" technology breakthrough his company was about to make. When he confronts the rival firm (run by Ashton) he is reminded of three secret meetings: at the top of The Monument; in the London Planetarium; and in a boat on The Serpentine.

He phones home and due to a misunderstanding, his butler Luigi thinks he is asking for Mr Pelham. Luigi says "I will just get him". He drives home quickly.

Distraught and unable to explain the unfolding events, he consults a psychiatrist, Dr Harris, and undergoes extended treatment in his clinic, where Harris explains that he doesn't believe Pelham is mad but perhaps was acting out of a subconscious desire to break out of his obsessively rigid lifestyle. He agrees to be admitted to the psychiatrist’s clinic for a few days’ observation. On his discharge the doctor persuades him to adopt some less conventional behaviour, so he goes to work dressed quite differently. However, during his time away, the double finalised the merger and took his wife out on the town, culminating in their going home and sleeping together. Pelham calls his home from the office and is astonished when the phone is answered by someone claiming to be himself. On edge, he drives to his house as quickly as possible, and inside comes face to face with his double, who calmly insists he is the real Pelham, pointing out the uncharacteristic clothes the visitor is wearing. The family and his best friend are all there and side with the double.

After asking the others to let the two of them speak alone, the double tells the "real" Pelham that the new clothes were a mistake, and explains how on the operating table the double was "let out" but there is only room in this world for one of them. Both insist they will go to the police.

The real Pelham drives off in his Rover in a greatly agitated state. The double immediately leaves and pursues him in the sports car. Dr Harris happens to see both men and is shocked. After a high-speed chase in the rain, the two cars race towards each other on a bridge. The real Pelham swerves off into the river, and just before he hits the water his image fades away. The double stops and looks down into the water, and then, to the audible sound of a double heartbeat, he briefly clutches his chest as if in extreme pain, but the spasm soon passes and he becomes calm: there is only one Pelham again.



Fairholt, Hadley Green, which featured as the home of Harold Pelham in the film.
Fairholt, Hadley Green, which featured as the home of Harold Pelham in the film.

The Strange Case of Mr Pelham was originally published in 1957.[6]

The film was one of the first three greenlit by Bryan Forbes while he was head of EMI Films (the others were Hoffman and And Soon the Darkness).[7] The film was announced in August 1969.[8]


According to Roger Moore's autobiography, My Word is my Bond, this film was part of a series of small budgeted films featuring star actors working for substantially less than their usual fees. Moore says that the film should have been successful, but amateurish marketing made this impossible. Box-office results were disappointing.[9]

Though initial reviews were negative,[10][11] the film is considered by many as one of Roger Moore's best non-Bond films.[12] It has also had many recent positive reviews on internet sites,[13][14][15] including one naming the film as an under-rated classic.[16] Ironically, Moore's character of Pelham speaks the line "Come on Charles, espionage isn't all James Bond and Her Majesty's Secret Service" when discussing the leaking of corporate secrets.[original research?]

Roger Moore said this was his favourite film from his own work.[17]

DVD and Blu-ray releases

The film was released on DVD format in 2005 with a PG rating. The DVD includes special features including a commentary by Roger Moore and Bryan Forbes.

A new HD restoration from the original film elements was released in a dual-format package on 24 June 2013 by Network.[18] The Blu-ray disc is in a widescreen aspect ratio as was used in cinemas. Special features include - 34 minute music suite of Michael J. Lewis's original score; a commentary track recorded in 2005, featuring Roger Moore and Bryan Forbes; the original theatrical trailer; four image galleries, including storyboards; and promotional material in PDF format for reading on a PC. An article is available on Network's website detailing the transfer and restoration of the film.[19]

Lamborghini Islero

The 1969 Lamborghini Islero GTS that appeared in the film, registration YLR 11G, sold at auction in 2010 for £106,400. It is one of only five right-hand-drive versions of the model to be built.[20] The car was auctioned again in March 2020, achieving a hammer price of £265,000 (£296,800 including commission, fees, etc.).[21]


  1. ^ "A Tribute to the Man Who Haunted Himself". Den of Geek.
  2. ^ Moody, Paul (2018). EMI Films and the Limits of British Cinema. Palgrave MacMillan. p. 16.
  3. ^ Roger Greenspun (4 September 1970). "The Man Who Haunted Himself". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Barnett, Laura (29 November 2011). "Portrait of the artist: Roger Moore, actor". The Guardian.
  5. ^ "Alastair Mackenzie". Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  6. ^ Loomis, Bill (17 March 1957). "Coroner's Verdict". The Washington Post and Times Herald. p. E7.
  7. ^ McEwan, Ian (15 August 1969). "British Film Czar Plans to Revitalize Industry". The Los Angeles Times. p. D16.
  8. ^ Martin, Betty (30 August 1969). "MOVIE CALL SHEET: 'Summer Look' on Stanley Donen Slate". The Los Angeles Times. p. 16.
  9. ^ City comment: Soon the darkness The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 8 Mar 1971: 12.
  10. ^ "The Man Who Haunted Himself". Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  11. ^ Greenspun, Roger (4 September 1971). "Movie Review - Lust For a Vampire - Screen: 2 Men in Unusual Situations:Teacher Infatuated in 'Lust for a Vampire' 'Man Who Haunted Himself' Also Opens". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  12. ^ "'The Man Who Haunted Himself' review by Martyn Perry • Letterboxd". 17 December 2012. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  13. ^ Sutton, Mike (23 June 2013). "The Man Who Haunted Himself". Film, the digital fix. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  14. ^ "Blu-ray Review: The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970)". Starburst magazine. 23 June 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  15. ^ "Review: The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970)". Archived from the original on 21 February 2014. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  16. ^ "Blu-ray review: The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970): Basil Dearden and Roger Moore's lost British classic resurfaces". Movietalk. 23 June 2013. Archived from the original on 12 February 2014. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  17. ^ "Sir Roger Moore looks back at Hollywood career in new book". 9 September 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  18. ^ "Network ON AIR > Man Who Haunted Himself". 11 October 2014. Archived from the original on 11 October 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2017.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  19. ^ "Networkonair > Features > Bringing Back Mr Pelham". 9 January 2014. Archived from the original on 9 January 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2017.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  20. ^ "1969 Lamborghini Islero GTS". RM Auctions. 27 October 2010.
  21. ^ "Ascot Racecourse 7th March 2020 Sale". Historics Auctioneers. 7 March 2020.

External links

This page was last edited on 8 April 2021, at 03:02
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