Saturday, 18 August 2012

The "James Bond" mention in 'The Man Who Haunted Himself' (1970) starring Roger Moore

After finishing The Saint (1962-1968) television series, Roger Moore starred in the espionage film Crossplot in 1968. In 1970 he starred in the serious psychological melodrama The Man Who Haunted Himself, which was directed by Basil Dearden, who would go on to film an episode of The Persuaders in 1972. The Man Who Haunted Himself gave Roger Moore the chance to show the considerable acting talents he could bring to bear on a more serious production than the flippantly characterised Simon Templar of The Saint. As Roger Moore is quoted as saying in the collector’s booklet of the Warner-Pathe publicity campaign that accompanies the Cinema Club Studio Canal DVD of the film:

“For the first time in my career, I’ve been allowed to express emotion on the screen and really discover what acting is.”

In the film, Moore plays successful businessman Harold Pelham, of ‘Freeman, Pelham and Dawson Marine Engineers.’ In the opening scene of the film, we see Pelham drive from his office onto the motorway, and then suddenly something happens to him and he is unbuckling his seat belt and accelerating greatly and swerving in between cars erratically until the inevitable horrific crash comes. Pelham survives what was a near-fatal car accident, however, but there are strange undertones. A double of him seems to exist as he meets people in his office and at his club who claim to have seen him while he was actually nowhere near the area at the time. After the changes wrought within him by the car crash, throughout the rest of the film Pelham is literally a man divided within himself, hence the title. It is probably one of Moore’s best film performances and he really displays a range of emotions convincingly throughout the film. It was made on a low budget of under £300,000 and sadly did not perform well at the box office, due to a lacklustre publicity campaign, and leaks to the press that the uncredited writer/producer Brian Forbes was making lots of films from a small budget of a few million pounds.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the film is the fact that Moore makes a reference to a fictional character he was to be best known for playing just a few years later. When discussing how industrial secrets seem to have leaked and found their way to their competitors, the chairman of the board, Sir Charles Freeman says:

“Well, I don’t know. I’m getting too old for this jungle. How could it happen, Pel?”

(Pelham): “Come on, Charles. Espionage isn’t all James Bond and Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Industry goes in for it too, you know.”

This reference to James Bond (and to the very different world of industrial espionage) came about two years before Roger Moore would sign to play 007 with Eon Productions in August 1972, and three years before Moore’s debut Bond film, Live and Let Die would be released in 1973. The scriptwriters have also interestingly made reference to the previous year’s Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service starring new Bond George Lazenby, which was released in December 1969 and still showing in early 1970. Roger Moore had of course also appeared in an episode of a television comedy show called ‘Mainly Millicent’ starring Millicent Martin and guest stars in the summer of 1964 where he played James Bond in a sketch. This sketch is available as an extra entitled Roger Moore as James Bond, circa 1964 on the Ultimate Edition DVD of Live and Let Die first released in 2006.

TBB Article No. 14

© Brian McKaig, 2007.