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 USA as The Hidden Room, is a 1949 British crime film directed by Edward Dmytryk, [1] based on the 1947 book 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 cheating on him with an American, Bill Kronin. He resolves to get his revenge on both of them by committing the perfect murder of Kronin.

Kidnapping Kronin at gunpoint, Riordan keeps him prisoner for months in a hidden room while authorities mount a search for the missing man. Riordan reveals to Kronin that he plans to kill him and dissolve his corpse in an acid bath to ensure no evidence remains to be found. Riordan's plot appears to be succeeding until a superintendent from Scotland Yard, Finsbury, visits the doctor's office enquiring about the case and hinting that he knows what Riordan is up to, having been tipped off by an anonymous letter (from Storm, it seems) to the Yard. A three-way battle of wits ensues, with Finsbury trying to solve the case by fundamental police work and psychological tactics (claiming that a "professional," such as himself, has the advantage over the cleverest murderer, who is nearly always an "amateur" and will make mistakes), and Kronin desperately seeking ways to save himself. In the end, a stray cat and Storm's dog, Monty, both play key roles in bringing Riordan's diabolical scheme to its conclusion. The film has a surprisingly upbeat ending for a noir.


Play and novel

Alec Coppel originally wrote the story as a play when living in Sydney during World War II. He adapted the work into a novel while travelling to London. Both play and novel were called A Man About a Dog [4] (although in the US the novel would be known as Over the Line).

The play opened in London in April 1946. [5]

The novel was published in 1948. Many critics commented that it felt similar to a play. [6] [7]

There was a production of the play in London in May 1949. [8]


Film rights were bought by 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 director was Edward Dmytryk, who had just left Hollywood following his appearance in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. [10] He went to England in mid 1948, where he was granted a work permit under the Ministry of Labour – he was permitted the work there under the foreign directors' quota agreement between producers and the local 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 the house of Alec Coppel, who wrote the script, near Grosvenor House. Coppel's home was turned into a temporary dressing room. [12]

The plot involved disposing a body by dissolving it in acid. This had similarities to the John George Haigh case. Accordingly, the British Board of Film Censors refused to grant the film a certificate for a time and its release was held up. [13]


Variety wrote that the film is slow-paced at first but becomes suspenseful. [14] The New York Times called it "a first-rate study in suspense and abnormal psychology". [15] Kendal Patterson of the Los Angeles Times described it as an early predecessor of Fatal Attraction . [16]

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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. "Film of Austn. novel held up". The News . Adelaide. 27 April 1949. p. 16. Retrieved 20 June 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  14. "Review: 'Obsession'". Variety . 1949. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  15. "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.
  16. Patterson, Kendal (19 August 1993). "'Hidden Room': Terror With a Twist". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 15 February 2015.