jump to navigation

Francis Durbridge’s “The Other Man” September 20, 2008

Posted by dorigo in books, music, personal.
Tags: ,
trackback

Yesterday I watched the fifth and last part of a long TV movie, “Lungo il fiume e sull’acqua” (along the river and on the water), an italian rendition of Francis Durbridge’s novel “The Other Man” (1958). The movie, produced by RAI (the italian national TV) in 1972 and directed by Alberto Negrin, had been shown on italian TV in January 1973, achieving a big success, with 20 million people watching.

The poster of the TV movie

The poster of the TV movie

The movie is a spy story with a very complicated plot (spoiler alert -avoid this paragraph if you will one day watch the movie). It unfolds in Hampton, a small town south of London, where the corpse of an italian scientist, Morani, is found in the “Happy Time”, the house-boat of a friend, his face maimed by blows. Police inspector Mike Ford (Giorgio Albertini, bottom right in the poster above) investigates with the help of his brother-in-law Bob (Renato de Carmine), who is a retired policeman visiting Ford. They are soon led to Henderson (Sergio Fantoni, left in the poster), a professor of science at the Hampton college, who has been seen around the house-boat after the homicide, and who had been a colleague of Morani. A beautiful young lady who owns a boat next to the Happy Time, Billie (Nicoletta Machiavelli) also saw Henderson carrying a body inside the boat, but she does not tell it to the police. She is found dead in the river a few days later. Everything converges against Henderson, especially after Billie’s brother is also found dead in the college -he was blackmailing Henderson using Billie’s diary. Instead, it turns out that Henderson has been collaborating with MI5, the secret service. With the help of Henderson the team had tried to hide Morani, who had discovered a very important formula for de-salinizing sea water, a project worth the interest of a criminal organization of industrial espionage. MI5 had organized the fake death of Morani, who was to be brought to Canada, but the criminals had found Morani and kidnapped him. In the end, Billie’s diary betrays Bob, who is the head of the espionage organization. Bob is shot by Henderson during a gun confrontation with Ford, but Ford then finds proof among Bob’s belongings that Henderson had been the mole, informing Bob’s organization of the location of Morani. Henderson is arrested, and Morani is free.

House-boats in Hampton

House-boats in Hampton

In 1973 I was a seven-year-old kid, and I watched the episodes with my brothers and parents on the BrionVega TV set which my father had bought not long before. I did not understand much of the plot at the time, but a few images of the movie stuck in my memory. There are actually several reasons why that movie got stuck in my mind.  First of all, there was a lot of tension in my family in 1973: my mother was about to part from my father, and I would soon go and live with her.

Francesco Carnelutti

Francesco Carnelutti

Second, the soundtrack is the beautiful, sad song by Don Mc Lean “Vincent”: every time I hear that song it reminds me of the TV movie. Third, the journalist in the movie (played by Francesco Carnelutti, right) plays with pencils with his fingers in a way that I’ve learned to imitate in my youth – I saw that trick in the movie first. Basically, you keep the pencil between the fingers of one hand, and rotate it without using the thumb. With some practice, you can keep the pencil moving endlessly.

Watching the movie episodes was a dive in the past for me. It was definitely a strong emotional experience. Of course, now the bit of mystery which surrounded the story is gone, and the whole thing has lost some of its charme. However, I am quite happy I did it. It took me a while to find the two DVDs for sale: the movie was never commercialized, and it rested on a dusting RAI archive. However, it turns out that it was finally fished out of oblivion and broadcast less than a year ago on a pay-TV channel. Somebody recorded it and is now selling it online.

My obsession with this story is not over, however: yesterday evening I found a used copy of the 1958 novel by Durbridge on Amazon.com.uk, and I bought the book. I am curious to see how different the plot is in the novel.

%d bloggers like this: