Review: Spotlight on a Murderer

Blu-ray & DVD: Spotlight on a Murderer (1961)

When terminally ill Count Hervé de Kerloquen (Pierre Brasseur) realises that his days are numbered, he retreats into a secret hiding place inside his castle. Learning of his supposed death, his family gather expecting great riches to be bestowed upon them, only to be told that they cannot touch the family fortune for 5 years. This is because his body is undiscovered therefore he cannot be legally declared dead.

To add insult to injury, they are forced to take on board the running and upkeep of the castle from their own pocket. Frustrated because they are sitting on a potential goldmine and eager to claim what they believe is rightfully theirs, they search the castle high and low for their uncle’s body. It is during this time that a number of ‘accidents’ start to happen and one by one the family members are picked off, but the question is, who is responsible?

Spotlight for a Murderer had a fairly slow start but once the premise was explained, I was looking forward to a rollicking romp of dastardly deeds filled with murder, mystery and intrigue. Unfortunately what I got didn’t raise much interest and ultimately I felt that it ran out of steam reaching an unsatisfactory conclusion.

Everything about the film is fine, from the acting, to the direction but, it all felt a bit flat and I found it quite hard to care who the killer was. I think part of the problem was that it really needed a detective or sleuth such as Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot to investigate the murders/accidents. As it turned out, when a family member died, everyone just kind of shrugged their shoulders and resumed their search for the missing Count. Speaking of the Count, it’s never quite explained why he decides to disappear. Is it because he dislikes his family and wants to see them squirm whilst they turn on each other, or is he just a cantankerous old git!?

I really wanted to enjoy Spotlight on a Murderer more than I did, and although it has an interesting idea, it never actually delivers a satisfying outcome. However, if you enjoy black and white French cinema then you may find something that you like.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations of the feature, restored by Gaumont
  • Uncompressed French Mono 1.0 PCM Audio
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Vintage production featurette from 1960, shot on location and including interviews with Georges Franju and actors Pascale Audret, Pierre Brasseur, Marianne Koch, Dany Saval and Jean-Louis Trintignant
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Chris Fujiwara.

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Review by Chris (co-host of 60 Minutes With and The Same Coin) from a disc kindly supplied by Arrow Films via Fetch Publicity.