Wealthy John Preston arrives in small town Deanbridge. He invests in local businesses and gets involved in community affairs. Eventually, he meets a local belle, Sally, and wins her from her current boyfriend. She agrees to marry him. Then, he begins to have strange dreams about Sylvia, a beautiful woman from his past, who comes to Deanbridge to blackmail him. In his dream, Preston strangles the scheming woman, but is then confronted by a strange Frenchman. He tells his dream to Dr. Walton, who feels Preston is suppressing things in his past, and should regain his memory before marrying Sally
Alias John Preston
The Danziger brothers, Harry and Edward, were American producers who set up a film company, New Elstree Studios, in a former aircraft engine factory outside London. To say they were prolific producers of cheap quickies would be an understatement; they churned them out endlessly. Lee later explained: "It would have been physically possible, if the spirit hadn't weakened, to make a hundred and twenty films in a year for [them], because any film they made that lasted more than three days began to run over budget.... They made countless films and all but the top stars were induced at one time or another to work for them."
Alias John Preston, which also features Hollywood actors Alexander Knox and Betta St. John, casts Lee as a businessman who arrives in a sleepy English town, only for his psychotic nature to emerge -- a characterization that foreshadowed the typecasting that would soon envelop the actor. As film historians Tom Johnson and Mark A. Miller later wrote: "Lee carefully calibrates his character to reveal gradually his mental unbalance. At first he seems relaxed and friendly, yet he nervously twirls his cigarettes as a vague hint that something is amiss. Soon, he suffers sweaty paroxysms of fear, as he stares into the camera and contorts his face with his hands. Such dramatic scenes offer the potential for unintended humor, but Lee intelligently underplays them to avoid snickers from his audience. For Lee, this is both a defining and an anticipatory performance of the many heavies he would portray."
Indeed, Alias John Preston is a small film that was churned out quickly, but it gave Lee the chance to hone his craft, to learn to deliver a coherent performance under conditions that allowed for almost no rehearsal and very few takes. Lee later reflected: "I hardly can say I'm proud of my work in this one..., but it was a lead and led to other, better parts.... The role was a signal of things to come. My main memory is playing with Alexander Knox, who was, for a time, famous for playing U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. He gave the picture a certain legitimacy."
By Jeremy Arnold
Tom Johnson and Mark A. Miller, The Christopher Lee Filmography
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