A darkened room, a stranger enters, scarf over his face, and fires off a few shots - but it's all right, it's only popular television host Eamonn Andrews, demonstrating the quick, no-nonsense manner in which he'd like to commit his murders. But to business, and the three short tales which will be presented for our delectation, all of them concerning murder and one of them a whodunnit. The other two will have a more supernatural flavour, but each one promises to captivate, beginning with a yarn about a painting hanging in this art gallery...
The implication that all the time Eamonn was introducing This Is You Life he was actually contemplating homicide may be an alarming one, but I wouldn't take that introduction too seriously, as the first and third stories illustrated how a measure of macabre fun could be had from the darkest of subjects, that of taking another person's life. Even then, that would only be in a fictional context, as the last thing the filmmakers wished to do here was to advocate the crime, though not every character here who schemes to bump off their fellow man - or woman - ended up punished. Just most of them do, in spite of the innocents along the way who suffered a similar fate.
This was one of those anthology movies that littered cinemas for decades, although now seem to have all but died out thanks to television taking over their province for quite some time now. In its way it anticipated those celebrated Amicus horror selections, with those aforementioned opening and closing segments the particular standouts with a supernatural theme, leaving the middle one rather dry and ordinary by comparison. That initial tale saw a museum guide get to chatting with a man he meets while gazing at his favourite painting, only to be drawn into the sinister house it depicts and the stifling world therein; respected theatre director Wendy Toye helmed this one, and worked up a genuinely creepy atmosphere to it and its bleak denouement.
Sadly, what came next was a marked step down in entertainment, a short that could just as easily have been a contemporary radio play which sees two friends, popular Edgar (John Gregson) and, well, unpopular George (Emrys Jones) who set up their own advertising firm straight out of university, only to find themselves as rivals for the same woman, Elizabeth (Elizabeth Sellars). You can guess from the title that someone here is doomed, but what you take away from this part is that they really should have found a stronger story to bridge the gap between the twin pillars of the better ones it lies between. But not to worry, as here's Orson Welles in a W. Somerset Maugham adaptation.
That is Lord Mountdrago, which plays out as another rivalry, this time for political oneupmanship as Welles' M.P. and Foreign Secretary verbally shoots down an impassioned Welsh counterpart in the House only to find himself the subject of the man's mysterious vengeance. That Welshman was played by the actor who appears in each of the sections, Alan Badel, demonstrating his range and what a fine character performer he was, as not only is he the creepy but debonair man from the painting, but he has an insidious nature to his version of Mountdrago's nemesis. He keeps turning up in his nightmares, then appears to reference them in their real life encounters, which sends the statesman round the twist; with Welles in full on bluster, his downfall is enjoyable while not being too meanspirited as we are meant to feel a modicum of sorrow for his eventual fate. The sort of thing that goes down well on a rainy afternoon, Three Cases of Murder has been a pleasant surprise for many down the years. Music by Doreen Carwithen.