John Mills in The Vicious Circle (1957)

Ever Decreasing Circles

Director Gerald Thomas's name will forever be associated with the "Carry on..." movies and whilst few will deny that the final few were poor when they started out in 1958 they were good family comedies. But Thomas didn't just direct the "Carry On..." movies and in 1957 he directed "The Vicious Circle" a thriller with a storyline right out of the Hitchcock playbook with an innocent man being accused of a murder he didn't commit. "The Vicious Circle" may have a storyline which focuses on a man's organized life turning to chaos as he falls deeper and deeper in to trouble but it isn't as stylish as a Hitchcock movie and lacks both atmosphere and energy. Despite that, thanks to a good cast lead by John Mills it is watchable keeping you interested by the main question of why is the man being set up.

Dr. Howard Latimer (John Mills - Town on Trial) receives a call from a friend asking him if he wouldn't mind picking up a German actress by the name of Frieda Veldon (Lisa Daniely) from the airport and taking her to Claridges which he does before rushing to his date with girlfriend Laura James (Noelle Middleton). But the next evening after a days work he returns to his flat to discover Frieda dead on his floor and soon finds himself the chief suspect when Detective Inspector Dane (Roland Culver - Safari) starts to investigate. With his normally ordered life crumbling around him as everything points to him Latimer must try and clear his name whilst the mystery of why he is being set up and by who thickens.

Noelle Middleton in The Vicious Circle (1957)

So as already mentioned the basic storyline to "The Vicious Circle" is a text book thriller featuring an innocent man being set up for a crime he didn't commit and having to deal with his ordered life turning to chaos. Now I have mentioned Hitchcock already because this sort of thing was very much the type of movie he made but "The Vicious Circle" is rather ordinary in comparison. That doesn't mean bad, yes it gets very convoluted and resorts to spoon feeding us an explanation but it keeps you involved because firstly you are never sure if characters are really who they say they are and secondly you wonder why Latimer is being set up. Ironically you are less concerned by the who is doing the setting up and what the crime is, just why they chose Latimer.

The thing is that as already mentioned "The Vicious Circle" is a very ordinary thriller which whilst bolstered by a good cast which alongside John Mills features Derek Farr, Lionel Jeffries, Roland Culver and the beautiful Noelle Middleton suffers from a lack of energy and a lack of atmosphere. The whole storyline plays out at an unremarkable pace never quickening to make moments of drama more exciting and between the ordinary camera angles and ordinary, efficient lighting there is no atmosphere. It doesn't make it dull because "The Vicious Circle" is watchable but you know in the hands of another director this could have been far more thrilling.

What this all boils down to is that "The Vicious Circle" is a solid but unremarkable thriller from the second half of the 1950's. The most interesting thing about it is the fact that Gerald Thomas directed it, well that and some old shots of London Airport which highlight how much it has changed over the last 50 years.