Man In The Attic (1953)

OCTOBER 30, 2007


Earlier this year, I saw Zodiac, and it remains one of the year’s best films (any genre). Like Jack the Ripper, the Zodiac was never caught (at least, not AS the Zodiac; dude might have been picked up for cross-dressing or something), and the film’s strict following of the facts meant that the film sort of lacked a conclusion in the typical way (i.e. the bad guy getting caught). Yet for some reason, many of the Ripper films I have seen, including Man In The Attic, can’t be content with sticking to the facts, instead they're always making up a guy and presenting him as the killer.

In theory, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it gives the film a sort of pointlessness. Why use the backdrop of one of the most intriguing serial killer stories in history in order to tell a fairly drab story about a creepy guy who turns out to be the killer (in a film that offers no other suspects to boot)? It hardly makes for gripping cinema, nor does it really teach you anything about the real case. It was Zodiac’s greatest achievement to focus on the obsession of the police/reporters working the case; we didn’t resolve the killer’s storyline (at least not concretely), but we got a great character study out of the deal.

That’s not the case here, as other than Jack Palance as the killer, no one has much to do other than be typical stereotypes (a cop, a maid, a beautiful damsel, the worrisome innkeeper...). The only thing that really makes the film stick out is the ridiculous couple of dance numbers (plus a song straight out of any random musical), which slow the film down and serve no real purpose. Also, the score sounds suspiciously like the theme to the original Star Trek.

In the end, the film (which is a remake of a Hitchcock film called The Lodger, which I assume is much better) is really only worth watching for two things: 1. A young Jack Palance (my first encounter with him was in Batman I think – and it’s sort of upsetting to see him so young yet have the exact same voice), and 2. The idea presented by a few characters that Jack the Ripper couldn’t be married, because no married man would do such heinous things to women. I don’t know if this was a legitimate theory proposed at the time, but if so, it’s pretty damn amazing. If you ask me, ONLY a man who has suffered through marriage could be capable of such things. But to each his own!

What say you?


  1. Ah, but this IS a cool character study--a study of Jack Palance, playing a character who's batshit crazy.

    I thought Palance made this film worth watching, especially his Freudian freak-outs and Oedipal mess--which while not especially deep or innovative, still are fun to watch. And I thought the cinematography in the city street shots was great.

    But what was up with the buddy cops here? Padding, I assume.

    Anyway, definitely not the best flick on the Chilling Classics pack, but I thought it was an okay way to kill some time.

  2. Oh, and you totally forgot to mention that Aunt Bea is in this! Aunt Bea and Jack Palance, IN THE SAME MOVIE! That alone makes it worth spinning.

  3. Watching this my thought was that the original script had Slade innocent, and someone else-- perhaps the *married* Mr. Harvey, who also casually mentions that he's hiding his black bag-- was the culprit, but for some reason they changed it while keeping a lot of pointless rigamarole about the handedness of the killer (this is *never* resolved, aside from the brilliant deductive insight that-- hold on- the killer could have attacked from the front!), and the fingerprints (the only significance there is that the object fingerprinted is a picture of his mother-- the prints themselves have *no* value). I can find no confirmation for this, but this is my suspicion.


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