The Man Who Haunted Himself stars a post-Saint, pre-James Bond Roger Moore as Harold Pelham, a London businessman who almost dies in a severe car accident. He makes a recovery, but on his return to work he realises that someone claiming to be him is slowly attempting to take over his life. Pelham tries to piece together what is happening, unsure if someone really is trying to become him, or if it is all in his mind.
Released in 1970, The Man Who Haunted Himself sees Roger Moore give a performance that pushes his acting to the limit. It’s a great role for anyone, but it’s important for Moore in that it shows there’s more (moore?) to his acting than raising his eyebrows. He really does inhibit both facets of Pelham’s persona, giving a performance that is both measured and assured. Other actors may have went over the top, turning the role into a showboating piece, but Moore should be given credit for keeping things in check, keeping things real. It’s clear that anyone who criticizes Moore as an actor hasn’t seen his work here.
The style of Basil Dearden’s film is somewhat dated and at times it comes across as somewhat visually flat, although having said that it cost less than £300,00 to make. However, the film perfectly captures that moment in time when the reserved 1960s was in transition to the looser, more relaxed 1970s. This is perfectively shown when Moore’s bowler hat wearing businessman attempts to kick against convention, by wearing less traditional and more flamboyant clothing. It’s a subtle social commentary on the hippie movement of the time, without tackling the issue head on.
The Man Who Haunted Himself, is based on The Strange Case of Mr Pelham, which was also made into an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and its peculiar tone matches the feel of that Twilight Zone-style show. Things get a bit psychedelic towards the ending, but there’s much to recommend here. Moore’s performance is strong, while the support from the likes of Anton Rogers, Hildegard Neil, Freddie Francis and Olga Georges-Picot is also good. The film never loses sight of its central premise, holding focus and staying true to its core concept. It’s more than a mind-bending thriller, as The Man Who Haunted Himself also documents a moment in cinematic time that shows London on the cusp of change as it embraced the 1970s.