Obsession (1949 film)

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Obsession (The Hidden Room) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster (USA)
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Screenplay by Alec Coppel
Based on A Man About a Dog
by Alec Coppel
Produced by
Starring Robert Newton
Cinematography C. M. Pennington-Richards
Edited by Lito Carruthers
Music by Nino Rota
Independent Sovereign Films
Distributed by General Film Distributors
Release date
  • 3 August 1949 (1949-08-03)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Obsession, released in the United States as The Hidden Room, is a 1949 British crime film directed by Edward Dmytryk. [1] It is based on the 1947 novel A Man About a Dog by Alec Coppel, who also wrote the screenplay for the film. [2] Obsession was entered into the 1949 Cannes Film Festival. [3]



Clive Riordan, a wealthy London psychiatrist, learns that his wife Storm is romantically involved with Bill Kronin, an American. He resolves to exact revenge on both by committing the perfect murder of Kronin.

After kidnapping Kronin at gunpoint, Riordan keeps him prisoner for months in a hidden room while authorities mount a search for him. Riordan reveals to Kronin that he plans to kill him and dissolve his corpse in an acid bath. Riordan's plot appears to be succeeding until Superintendent Finsbury from Scotland Yard visits the doctor's office, enquiring about the case and hinting that he knows what Riordan is doing, as he has received information from an anonymous letter. A three-way battle of wits ensues. Finsbury tries to solve the case with policework and psychological tactics, claiming that as a police officer, he has the advantage over murderers, who are nearly always amateurs and make mistakes. Kronin desperately seeks ways to save himself.



Alec Coppel wrote the story as a play when he was living in Sydney during World War II. He adapted it into a novel while travelling to London. Coppel titled the play and the novel A Man About a Dog , [4] but in the United States, the novel was titled Over the Line.

The play opened in London in April 1946 [5] and the novel was published in 1948, although many critics commented that the novel felt similar to a play. [6] [7] Another production of the play was staged in London in May 1949. [8]


Film rights were acquired by the British producer Noel Madison. He also bought the rights to two other thrillers, Four Hours to Kill by Norman Krasna and The Last Mile by John Wexley. [9]

The film's director Edward Dmytryk, had recently left Hollywood following his appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee. [10] He travelled to England in mid-1948 and was granted a work permit by the Ministry of Labour under the foreign directors' quota agreement between producers and the film industry's trade unions. He signed a contract to direct the film with Nat Bronstein of Independent Sovereign Films on 1 October 1948. [11]

Filming took place near Grosvenor House and Coppel's home, which was converted into a temporary dressing room. [12]

Dmytryck went over the script with Coppel at a hotel at Lake Annecy. He later said Bronstein wanted a part in the film for his opera singing girlfriend, Marushka, and the producer was upset when one could not be found. [13]

Dmytryck says Robert Newton had to place a £20,000 bond guaranteeing his sobriety during production which went for 30 days. The director says Newton only started drinking on the last day of filming. [14]

The plot involves disposing a body by dissolving it in acid. Because this appeared to have similarities to the case of the murderer John Haigh, the British Board of Film Censors initially refused to grant the film a certificate and its release was delayed. [15]


Variety wrote that that the film is slow-paced at first but becomes suspenseful. [16] The New York Times called it "a first-rate study in suspense and abnormal psychology." [17]

In 1993, Kendal Patterson of the Los Angeles Times described the film as an early predecessor of Fatal Attraction . [18]

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  1. Hal Erickson (2012). "Obsession". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times . Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  2. "New Novels of the Week on the Good Earth". The Argus . Melbourne. 3 January 1948. p. 22. Retrieved 4 September 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  3. "Festival de Cannes: Obsession". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
  4. "Sydney's Talking About—". The Sydney Morning Herald . 3 July 1947. p. 14. Retrieved 20 June 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  5. "VARIETY". The Truth . Sydney. 3 March 1946. p. 32. Retrieved 20 June 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  6. "New Novels of the Week on the Good Earth". The Argus . Melbourne. 3 January 1948. p. 22. Retrieved 20 June 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  7. "New Fiction". The Sydney Morning Herald . 24 April 1948. p. 6. Retrieved 20 June 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  8. "Production of A Man About A Dog | Theatricalia". theatricalia.com.
  9. Schallert, E. (4 May 1948). "Pal dreams of unique glamour star reunion". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest   165832783.
  10. THOMAS F BRADY HOLLYWOOD.. (4 September 1949). "HOLLYWOOD WIRE: Dmytryk Reports on His Year in England -- Story for Sale -- 'Annie' Goes Again". New York Times. p. 47.
  11. "Dmytryk Inked to Direct British Film", Variety 6 October 1948 p 2
  12. "HOME AS DRESSING ROOM FOR ACTORS". The Truth . Sydney. 12 December 1948. p. 34. Retrieved 20 June 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  13. Dmytryck p 110-112
  14. Dmytryck p 113
  15. "Film of Austn. novel held up". The News . Adelaide. 27 April 1949. p. 16. Retrieved 20 June 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  16. "Review: 'Obsession'". Variety . 1949. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  17. "THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; 'The Hidden Room,' British-Made Psychological Drama, Opens at Broadway Embassy". The New York Times . 9 January 1950. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  18. Patterson, Kendal (19 August 1993). "'Hidden Room': Terror With a Twist". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 15 February 2015.