Posted by: John Gholson
While British studio Hammer Films reinvented the Universal Monsters for a new generation, they also produced a handful of psychological thrillers, encouraged by the box office success of Les Diaboliques and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. One such film was 1963’s Paranoiac, starring professional drunkard Oliver Reed as Grade-A douchebag Simon Ashby, a reckless, hostile party boy determined to paint his loving sister Eleanor (Janette Scott) as insane.
Money is the motive for Simon’s manipulation. The Ashby parents are long dead, along with their youngest child Tony, who threw himself off a cliff as a boy when he couldn’t cope his the loss of his parents. Simon and Eleanor are the only heirs to the Ashby fortune, under the care of their Aunt Harriet (Sheila Burrell), and if Simon can prove that Eleanor is not of sound mind, he becomes sole executor of their estate. To that end, Simon hires a morally questionable nurse for Eleanor and carries out a simple plan to convince his sister that she might be hallucinating visions of the departed Tony.
Simon’s plan goes completely haywire when Tony actually shows up, alive and well (played with an almost comical stiffness by Alexander Davion). Suddenly, it’s Eleanor who seems to be the sane one, while Simon quickly unravels, unable to covince himself that this man is the child they once knew.