Lee Warren (Eric Portman) is married to a woman named Vivien (Greta Gynt). Lee recently had to take an extended business trip to America and was unable to take Vivien with him. He was sure their marriage would survive the separation.
For three weeks, things were peachy. They wrote to each other every day.. and then the letters began to dwindle.
As it turns out, Vivien began stepping out on her husband, a fact Lee discovers when he returns from New York and learns the identity of her lover, Richard Fenton (Dennis Price).
Ever the jealous man, Lee decides to take matters into his own hands, paying a visit to Fenton and convincing him to write a letter to Vivien, ending the relationship.
Things take a violent turn, and Fenton ends up dead. Lee believes he’s pulled off the perfect crime, but further complications ensue when he realizes Fenton isn’t his wife’s only lover.
Arthur Crabtree directs 1947’s Dear Murderer. This British thriller was written by Peter Rogers along with husband-and-wife team Sydney and Muriel Box.
Dear Murderer is a very sinister thriller. A dim, unsettled atmosphere is built successfully through the lighting and photography, which feature shadows upon shadows upon shadows. It’s very dark, and very well-suited to the story told here.
The script is quite good. It has a few unpredictable twists, and the visuals elevate it, making an already-interesting story even more gripping.
The film is also bolstered by its performances. Eric Portman’s portrayal of Lee Warren is pure, remorseless evil. He’s such a manipulator! In one scene, he speaks to a detective who is looking into Fenton’s death and says that had he known about his wife’s affair, he would have taken the law into his own hands. He says it with a completely straight face… and little does the detective know, that’s exactly what Lee has done.
The dead-end investigation into Lee’s crime adds a fascinating element to the story: an exploration of how an innocent person can be sentenced to death. Since Lee seems to have outsmarted the police and isn’t taking the fall for killing Fenton, the blame has to fall on someone, and a man who has committed no crime gets wrapped up in the investigation.
Greta Gynt is equally as great as her on-screen husband, taking on the scheming role of Vivien. She’s an unfaithful woman and clearly a little bit off-center. In another standout scene, Vivien learns that Fenton has died. Rather than breaking down in tears, her face lights up. She’s flattered by the idea that he could have killed himself for her!
In a way, Lee and Vivien are a perfect pair. They’re both very disturbed, both very willing to do bad things without a second thought to their consequences or impact on others. They’re like the Nick Dunne and “Amazing Amy” of the 1940s — both incredibly difficult to like, but purely fascinating to watch!
Dear Murderer sat on my Netflix queue for a couple of years before I finally got around to giving it a watch, and I’m ashamed I waited so long to give it a chance. This film is a tense and highly effective thriller, with a strong script, great photography and a very talented cast. It deserves a lot more attention and appreciation than it gets! The score: 5/5!