Cast & Crew
In 1888, all of England is horrified by the gruesome murders of streetwalkers in the Whitechapel district of London. One night, even though three thousand policeman are patroling the area, the killer, dubbed "Jack the Ripper," claims his fourth victim. That same night, William Harley, an unsuccessful businessman, and his wife Helen are surprised by a visit from Mr. Slade, who is interested in their rooms for rent. Slade expresses dismay at the parlor's drawings of oldtime actresses, but is interested in the attic, which he says will be useful for experiments. Explaining that he is a pathologist who keeps irregular hours, the soft-spoken Slade offers Helen a month's rent in advance. Helen, curious about Slade's aversion to actresses, tells him that her actress niece, Lily Bonner, is about to open in London after a successful run in Paris. On the night of Lily's opening, the Harleys' maid, Daisy, is hesitant to attend, as she does not want to walk home alone, despite the presence of an additional thousand policeman to the area. Slade then meets the beautiful Lily, who is intrigued by the shy, lonely lodger. Later, as Lily prepares in her dressing room, she is visited by faded actress Annie Rowley, who admits that she now works in a brothel. Although Lily wants to help Annie, she disappears, and Lily goes onstage, where her revealing dances are welcomed with applause. After the show, Lily is visited by Scotland Yard inspector Paul Warwick, who informs her that Annie has become the Ripper's latest victim. The police believe they have a lead, however, as a man wearing an ulster and carrying a small black bag was seen near Annie's body. The following morning, Warwick visits the Harley home to see Lily, with whom he has become infatuated. When he is introduced to Slade, however, Warwick takes an instant dislike to him, and Slade returns his antipathy, for both men are jealous of the other's interest in Lily. Warwick expounds his theory that the Ripper is left-handed and is a maniac who kills at random, but Slade replies that he will never catch the Ripper, as he is only doing what he has to because of who he is. Soon after, Helen becomes uneasy when she discovers that Slade has burned a small black bag, although William shows her that he has hidden a similar bag of his own because any man carrying such a bag is under suspicion. The following day, Slade has tea with the flirtatious Lily, who kisses him, much to his surprise and delight. Slade turns away, however, when she inquires about his dislike of actresses. Slade then reveals that his mother was an actress and that her extraordinary beauty hid "the wretched heart of a Jezebel," and that after she left his father for a younger man, he died a drunkard. Slade relates that his mother eventually became an alcoholic streetwalker and died on the streets of Whitechapel, and Lily is surprised by the depth of his conflicting feelings for her. Their discussion is interrupted by Warwick, who invites Lily to tour Scotland Yard's Black Museum, which contains artifacts of notorious killers. Slade accompanies them and is disgusted by Warwick's attitude toward the artifacts, which he proudly regards as trophies. Warwick theorizes that the Ripper has broken his pattern of killing every five or six days, and that the compulsion to kill must be building within him. Angered by Warwick's professed expertise about the Ripper, Slade predicts that he will strike that night. A few hours later, Irish immigrant Mary Lenihan is murdered, and soon after, Lily awakens at home and finds Slade burning his ulster. Although the stains on his coat look like blood, Slade asserts that he is burning the ulster to prevent contamination due to a bungled experiment. The next morning, a nervous Helen wants to alert the police about Slade's strange activities, but William refuses to listen and assures Slade that he is welcome to stay. Slade then tells Lily that he will be attending her show that evening, although he jealously notes that Warwick will also be coming. Meanwhile, Warwick, suspicious of Slade, confirms that he is a pathologist at the University Hospital, and later that night, arrives at the Harley home to escort Lily to the theater. Before Lily comes downstairs, William reluctantly apprises Warwick of Slade's eccentricities, and the inspector searchs Slade's room, in the hopes of obtaining a fingerprint to compare with one found at the latest crime scene. Lily is outraged when she finds Warwick snooping through Slade's belongings and stealing a portrait of his mother, and berates him. At the theater, Slade grows increasingly distraught by the lascivious stares Lily's dancing draws, while at Scotland Yard, Warwick is frustrated in his efforts to match Slade's fingerprints to those of the Ripper. Warwick's sergeant, Bates, cracks the case, however, when he recognizes the portrait of Slade's mother as Anne Lawrence, the Ripper's first victim. Rushing to the theater, Warwick and his men search for Slade, who is with Lily in her dressing room. Slade begs Lily to go away with him, far from the stares of other men, but the nervous Lily states that she would never give up acting, despite her fondness for him. In anguish, Slade states that he must cut out the evil from her beauty and holds a knife to Lily's throat. Lily gasps that Slade cannot hurt her because he loves her, and as Warwick and his men pound on the door, Slade drops his knife and escapes through the window. After a long chase through the streets of Whitechapel, Warwick reaches the River Thames, into which Slade has disappeared. Although Warwick searches for the killer, it becomes apparent that he has drowned, and the inspector surmises that the river is not as deep and dark as where Slade is going.
Robert L. Jacks
Robert Presnell Jr.
Man in the Attic (1953)
Unlike its immediate predecessor which was an "A" picture directed by John Brahm with a first rate cast including George Sanders, Merle Oberon, and Cedric Hardwicke, Man in the Attic was clearly a B-movie with Palance as the only high profile name in the cast. Still, the film is atmospheric, faithful to Lowndes's storyline, and an entertaining diversion for Palance fans who enjoy his particular brand of moody self-absorption and intensity. Here he plays a reclusive pathologist named Slade who is looking for lodgings where his privacy will be respected and he can come and go unobserved since he works irregular hours at a nearby university hospital. He finds exactly what he is looking for at the Harleys but his peculiar behavior is evident from the moment he moves into their attic apartment, noting the framed portraits of actresses on the wall: "These pictures...their eyes follow you wherever you walk. They watch. They get on my nerves. I don't like being watched."
Slade soon learns that he is not the only boarder in the home when he meets the Harleys' niece, Lily Bonner (Constance Smith), a visiting actress from France who is premiering her new stage revue at a local theatre. An attraction develops between the two and Slade begins to court Lily but his peculiar behavior becomes a cause of increasing concern for Mrs. Harley (Frances Bavier) who fears he might be Jack the Ripper. For instance, a witness to a recent murder saw the suspect fleeing the crime scene holding a black medical bag...just like the one Slade carries around. The clues begin to pile up, all of them pointing to Slade as the likely culprit, but is he really the man Scotland Yard is after?
[Spoiler Alert] In Alfred Hitchcock's 1927 version of The Lodger, he changed the ending of Lowndes's story, revealing that Jonathan Drew, the suspected killer, was innocent all along and that the real Jack the Ripper was someone else. Both the 1944 version and Man in the Attic opt for the original ending, however, in which the lodger turns out to be the fiendish killer. In some ways, it couldn't be more obvious but that predictability does add some much needed tension to the film since very few of the Ripper's murders occur on screen. When they do, they are remarkably subtle and discreet compared to the more explicit accounts that would follow in such films as Jack the Ripper (1959), A Study in Terror (1965), Hands of the Ripper (1971), Jess Franco's Jack the Ripper (1976) with Klaus Kinski and From Hell (2001).
The real Jack the Ripper, of course, was never apprehended and historians and crime writers continue to speculate on his true identity. At the top of the list of suspects are Michael Ostrog, a Russian-born criminal and previous mental patient, a poor Jewish resident from Poland named Kosminski, the barrister and school teacher Montague John Druitt, and a quack physician from America known as Dr. Francis J. Tumblety. Queen Victoria's heir and grandson, the Duke of Clarence, is also a favorite suspect and so is the painter Walter Sickert. Another popular rumor circulated about a suspect who died after the murder of Mary Kelly, the Ripper's seventh victim, and was reputedly a sickly young lodger who only went out at night and was overly obsessed with reading articles about the murders. This unidentified, possibly fictitious person, was said to have been the real inspiration for Marie Belloc Lowndes's novel.
Producer: Leonard Goldstein, Robert L. Jacks
Director: Hugo Fregonese
Screenplay: Barre Lyndon, Robert Presnell, Jr., Marie Belloc Lowndes (novel)
Cinematography: Leo Tover
Film Editing: Marjorie Fowler
Art Direction: Leland Fuller, Lyle Wheeler
Music: Eliot Daniel, Hugo Friedhofer
Cast: Jack Palance (Slade), Constance Smith (Lily Bonner), Byron Palmer (Insp. Paul Warwick), Frances Bavier (Helen Harley), Rhys Williams (William Harley), Sean McClory (Constable #1).
by Jeff Stafford
Man in the Attic (1953)
Sean McClory (1924-2003)
Born on March 8, 1924 in Dublin, Ireland, he became a leading man at the famous Abbey Theatre in the early '40s and relocated to the United States shortly after World War II. His first roles were small bits as a police officer in two RKO quickies: Dick Tracy's Dilemma and Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (both 1947). He eventually graduated to more prestigious pictures like The Glass Menagerie (1950), Les Miserables (1952) and John Ford's The Quiet Man (1952).
After a few more supporting roles in quality pictures: Niagara (1953); the sci-fi chiller Them! (1954); and for John Ford again in The Long Gay Line (1955), McClory turned to television. He kept busy for several years with guest roles in a variety of popular shows: Bonanza, Wagon Train, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, The Outer Limits (1964) and countless others. By the mid-'60s, McClory became slightly more heavy-set, and began tossing off variations of jovial, "oirish" blarney for, yet again John Ford in Cheyenne Autumn (1964); and in a string of Disney pictures: Follow Me, Boys! (1966, his best role, a moving performance as the alcoholic father whose behavior alienates his son, played by a 15-year old Kurt Russell); The Happiest Millionaire (1967), and The Gnome-Mobile (1967), before he returned to television. His final role was in John Huston's acclaimed Irish opus The Dead (1987). He is survived by his wife, Peggy Webber McClory.
by Michael T. Toole
Sean McClory (1924-2003)
Sometimes I walk close by the river. The river is like liquid night flowing peacefully out to infinity.- Slade
Did you see that? The little minx wiggled at the Prince of Wales!- Helen Harley
Marie Belloc Lowndes' popular novel first appeared as a short story in McClure's in January 1911. Although Hollywood Reporter news items include Michael Pate and Keith Hitchcock in the cast of this film, Pate was not in the completed film and Hitchcock's appearance has not been confirmed. A August 21, 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item incorrectly includes Anne Bancroft in the cast instead of Constance Smith. On August 26, 1953, Hollywood Reporter announced that, "following a personal policy of always appearing in a bit in every picture he directs, Hugo Fregonese will be seen as a member of the French Surete." There were no French gendarmes in the viewed print, however. According to another August 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item, Al Segal was originally signed to choreograph the film but underwent an emergency appendectomy and was replaced by Willetta Smith. A modern source includes Stuart Holmes and Jeffrey Sayre in the cast.
Man in the Attic marked the first production by Leonard Goldstein's Panoramic Productions. Previously a producer at Twentieth Century-Fox, Goldstein established Panoramic in July 1953 in order to produce "B," non-CinemaScope films for release by Fox, which at the time was concentrating on its big-budget "A" CinemaScope pictures. When Panoramic was formed, Goldstein was allowed to choose and take with him ten story properties owned by Fox, one of which was Lowndes' novel The Lodger. According to a July 15, 1953 Hollywood Reporter article, Goldstein also was given access to Fox's roster of contract players and crew members, "many of whom, because of the fewer CinemaScope productions, would normally be laying off otherwise-on salary." The article speculated that Panoramic would budget the films at approximately $500,000 each, and that Goldstein would receive a flat fee for each picture plus a percentage of the profits. In September 1953, the deal between the studios was extended to include another ten pictures.
Although many films have depicted the character "Jack the Ripper," Lowndes' novel, in which the character is not actually identified as the Ripper, is the basis for only a few of the productions. The first picture based on her novel was the 1926 Gainsborough film The Lodger, which was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starred Ivor Novello. Novello again played the title role in the 1932 Twickenham picture The Lodger, which was directed by Maurice Elvey and released in the United States in 1934 as The Phantom Fiend. In 1944, Twentieth Century-Fox released a version of the story, also entitled The Lodger, directed by John Brahm and starring Laird Cregar and Merle Oberon (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). Lowndes' novel was also the basis for a play entitled The Lodger (Who Is He), written by H. A. Vachell (London, 1916). For more information about the real Jack the Ripper and films based on his crimes, see the entry above for the 1960 Paramount release Jack the Ripper.
Released in United States Winter December 1953
Remake of "The Lodger" Alfred Hitchcock's 1926 silent film and two sound versions in 1932 and 1944.
Released in United States Winter December 1953