THE THIRD SECRET, according to the script, is “the truth“. The first you keep from others; the second you keep from yourself. Heavy. Rough going for the actors in this pretentious psycho-babble mystery meller from Britain in 1964, a box office terminal patient, comatose at 147th place in the States. Directed by Charles Crichton.
“Blame no one but me” gasps a renowned London psychoanalyst, dying from a gunshot wound. It’s ruled a suicide, but the man’s daughter (Pamela Franklin) thinks otherwise and presses a respected TV reporter (Stephen Boyd), one of her father’s patients, to pry into the possibility that another former patient murdered him. Guilt of one sort or another racks them all.
Child star Franklin (13 at the time) was getting a lot of notice at the time, and Boyd’s success from Ben-Hur had secured his star status, but neither come off well here, and his over-intense performance signals his later career-mangling misstep with The Oscar. Robert L. Joseph’s artificial dialogue is a major drawback; no-one talks like this.
Making the best of weak material are the three vital actors playing the other patients/suspects: Richard Attenborough, Diane Cilento and Jack Hawkins. Attenborough was enjoying a banner year with vivid characterizations in Seance On A Wet Afternoon and Guns At Batasi; he teases his line readings with precision. The inimitable Hawkins also appeared in ‘Batasi‘ and knocked back Zulu as well. Most impressive is Cilento, who brought earthy vitality to every part she played. These three, and Douglas Slocombe’s fine black & white cinematography, almost save an otherwise dreary picture.
29-year old Judi Dench gets her first feature credit. With Paul Rogers, Alan Webb, Rachel Kempson, Nigel Davenport. 103 minutes, trimmed to that length after scenes with “the 5th patient”, Patricia Neal, were cut.