The Upturned Glass (1947) starring James Mason, Rosamund John, Pamela Mason, Ann Stephens, Morland Graham, Brefni O'Rorke directed by Lawrence Huntington Movie Review

The Upturned Glass (1947)   4/54/54/54/54/5

James Mason as Michael Joyce in The Upturned Glass (1947)

The Mason's on Murder

How do you describe "The Upturned Glass", to many it is about a man who commits a revenge murder and we are told all about it in a clever way as if we were part of a classroom listening to a lecture. But then we also have the element of insanity as the subject of whether the murderer is sane or is in fact insane and determined to prove himself sane. But there is more and we also have an entertaining analytical look at an affair which makes it much more than just a movie about a murder. And to seal it off it has James Mason delivering a nicely on edge performance as the murderer a performance which straddles the line of sanity and insanity.

As a respected neurosurgeon Michael Joyce (James Mason - Hotel Reserve) is giving a lecture on the psychology of crime where he tells the class about a man, a doctor who found himself falling in love with the mother of one of his patients. But when the woman dies in a supposedly accidentally fall from her bedroom window the man sets out to uncover the truth and get revenge for the murder.

Pamela Kellino as Kate Howard in The Upturned Glass (1947)

There is a lot going on in "The Upturned Glass" starting with the fact that neurosurgeon Michael Joyce is telling a class all about a man, a sane man who committed murder for revenge. Now it is no spoiler when I say the man who Michael is talking about is himself and that immediately makes it intriguing because as we follow the story from Michael meeting and falling for Emma, the patient's mother to the point he seeks revenge we know he is discussing himself. And it is very nicely worked because the analytical look at why Michael fell for Emma is fascinating, from not feeling anything to bonding as he saw her everyday as the caring mother of a patient makes it easy to understand. In fact the whole element of Michael and Emma falling in love, having secret meetings and battling their emotions is a good movie in itself.

But then this affair builds as after breaking up Emma dies and Michael believes her death was no accident, seeking the truth as to who may have pushed her out of her bedroom window. Now in a way this is the weakest part of "The Upturned Glass" and is little more than a series of scenes where Michael discovers the truth but it culminates in a brilliant scene where we have Michael battling in his inner rage. There is a scene where he tells someone to leave knowing that if they don't he will not be able to stop himself from seeking revenge, you can see the battle between sanity and insanity etched across his face as he tries to control himself.

And then we watch Michael get his revenge, although in truth we don't and this is where "The Upturned Glass" gets really clever. I won't go into detail but say a series of events turns things on its head in an unexpected manner and leading to a very unexpected ending as the focus switches firmly on whether Michael has become insane or not.

It is a fascinating story, one which was written by James Mason's wife Pamela and whilst not perfect has the basis of a very clever thriller. But it is very much James Mason who makes it work through acting on the edge, delivering a character who for much of the movie straddles the line between sanity and insanity. And it is Mason's smooth tones which have this mesmerising quality especially as we listen intently as any student as he describes the affair with Emma and the feeling of rage as he works out it was murder. It is a good job that Mason delivers a top performance because unfortunately other performances are less refined and occasionally a bit over board.

What this all boils down to is that "The Upturned Glass" is a brilliant thriller, a clever thriller which gives us not only analysis of a murder and an affair but some clever twists. But it is the performance and believability of James mason which makes it come to life, making it a movie which should be held in higher esteem.