DR. CRIPPEN (1962)
DR. CRIPPEN on a double-bill with THE RAVEN
DONALD PLEASENCE.....Dr. Hawley Harvey "Peter" Crippen
CORAL BROWNE.....Cora Belle Elmore Crippen
SAMANTHA EGGAR.....Ethel Le Neve
DONALD WOLFIT.....R.D. Muir
JAMES ROBERTSON JUSTICE.....Captain McKenzie
GEOFFREY TOONE.....Mr. Tobin
OLIVER JOHNSTONE.....Lord Chief Justice
Directed by ROBERT LYNN
Written by LEIGH VANCE
Produced by JOHN CLEIN
REVIEW BY BOSLEY CROWTHER
In the light of the lurid legends of the Crippen murder case, which occurred in 1910 and is
still a favorite in the annals of London crime, it is quite disillusioning and distressing to be
shown, at this late date, that the gentleman involved---one Dr. Crippen, who was
convicted and executed for murdering his wife---was really a meek and harmless person
and the wife's death was caused by an accident.
This is the dreary disappointment in store for those who go to see the British film, Dr.
Crippen, which came to the Paramount yesterday.
Almost as disappointing is the drab, bloodless nature of this film, which has a pallid
Donald Pleasence in the title role. Nary a shriek nor a shiver ruffles the solemn London
court or the commonplace home of the Crippens, in which most of the action occurs. Nary
a violent gesture nor even a grisly detail is shown to furnish a bit of satisfaction for the
sanguinary crime-film buff.
This is one of those pictures in which an almost tangible restraint is stiffly enforced by the
director, as the film shows how a mild little man is defeated by circumstance and chance.
Patiently, Mr. Pleasence, crouched behind a droopy mustache, peers out through limpid
eye-glasses at a tawdry Victorian home dominated by a flagrantly vulgar, lustful and
faithless wife. He submits willingly to the bullying of Coral Browne as this blowsy,
termagant creature, so long as she will leave him alone.
It is only when she tries to force him to do the service of a husband for her, after he has
piously promised a sweet young woman, with whom he has become friendly, that he will
have no more to do with his wife, that the poor little man takes the notion to put a
tranquilizing powder in his wife's tea and inadvertently sprinkles the whole package of
same in the sugar bowl.
"Three spoonsful?" he innocently asks, as he delivers the tray. And that is how Dr.
Crippen came to do away with his wife.
The rest of it is a piteous recount of how the widower, finally alarmed by the interest of
Scotland Yard detectives in the whereabouts of his wife (who, we are told, but have no
other way of knowing, is tucked away in the basement under a pile of coal), tries to flee to
America with his young friend dressed up in the clothes of a boy.
Considering the race and form of Samantha Eggar, who plays this delicate role, it is no
wonder that gruff old James Robertson Justice as the ship's captain, discovers the flimsy
ruse and returns Dr. Crippen to London and to the injustice of a ruthless court.
Well, one must give good scores to Mr. Pleasence, Miss Browne, Miss Eggar and the rest
of the cast for giving a sense of solemnity and suffocation to this stiff tale.
Mr. Pleasence, who was recently seen here as the filthy old bum in The Guest, is
especially impressive with his unctuous disgust with the sordidness of his wife.
But the mystery, the action and the pathos are all too academic and thin---too milky and
uneventful---except for those who are real Crippen fans.
Review from the February 15, 1964 edition of THE NEW YORK TIMES.
Review © 1964 THE NEW YORK
TIMES. All Rights Reserved.
Poster artwork courtesy of Miles Shephard
Poster artwork © 1962 WARNER BROTHERS. All Rights Reserved.
Title and logo designed by Karen Rappaport
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