Film: The Man Who Haunted Himself

Part beaten-to-death Twilight Zone premise, part third-rate Hitchcock knockoff, The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970) is a quirky, colorful film that looks mouth-watering but tastes bland. Roger Moore stars as Harold Pelham, a stiff, buttoned-down executive in the commercial shipping industry with a frustrated wife (Hildegarde Neil), two kids, and an increasingly bland suburban life. After recovering from a serious car wreck, however, Pelham’s life gets decidedly more interesting when co-workers, friends, and family start reminding him of actions, behaviors, and statements of his that he doesn’t even remotely recall. It soon becomes clear that another version of himself is on the loose—and it’s a nastier, riskier, sexier version, hellbent on throwing his life into chaos. But is it a real, physical doppelgänger, or a figment of his imagination?

The final film from prolific British director Basil Dearden, The Man Who Haunted Himself didn’t do much to warm me to his —beyond, of course, delivering amusing B-movie cheesiness, eye candy in the cast, and an entertainingly manic performance from Moore. Unfortunately, there just isn’t much substance below the slick, technicolor surface, which is unfortunate, since the whole repressed doppelgänger concept might have made for some interesting thematic material. Alas, the “good” Pelham isn’t much more sympathetic than the “evil” one; they’re both just different kinds of pricks, an icky, accidental glimpse into 1970 patriarchy. The plot, meanwhile, does little more than bash Pelham over the head with more and more clues as to what’s happening to him. The viewer will figure it out at the fifteen-minute mark, but the hero remains clueless throughout. There’s a moment, here and there, of promising flair, but by and large this one is a waste of time.

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