Obsession (1949 film)

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

Theatrical release poster (USA)
Directed byEdward Dmytryk
Produced by
Screenplay byAlec Coppel
Based onthe novel A Man About A Dog
by Alec Coppel
StarringRobert Newton
Music byNino Rota
CinematographyC.M. Pennington-Richards
Edited byLito Carruthers
Independent Sovereign Films
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors
Release date
  • 3 August 1949 (1949-08-03)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Clive Riordan, a wealthy London doctor, learns that his wife Storm is cheating on him with an American, Bill Kronin. He determines to get the perfect 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 succeed until a superintendent from Scotland Yard visits the doctor's office inquiring about the case and hinting that he knows what Riordan is up to, having been tipped off by an anonymous letter to the Yard.


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.


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.[8]

The director was Edward Dmytryk, who had just left Hollywood following his appearance in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]


Variety wrote that the film is slow paced at first but becomes suspenseful.[13] The New York Times called it "a first-rate study in suspense and abnormal psychology".[14] Kendal Patterson of the Los Angeles Times described it as an early predecessor of Fatal Attraction.[15]


  1. "Obsession". NY Times. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  2. "New Novels of the Week on the Good Earth". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 3 January 1948. p. 22. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  3. "Festival de Cannes: Obsession". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
  4. "Sydney's Talking About—". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 3 July 1947. p. 14. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  5. "VARIETY". The Truth. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 3 March 1946. p. 32. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  6. "NEW NOVELS OF THE WEEK On the Good Earth". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 3 January 1948. p. 22. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  7. "New Fiction". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 24 April 1948. p. 6. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  8. Schallert, E. (4 May 1948). Pal dreams of unique glamour star reunion. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/165832783
  9. 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.
  10. "Dmytryk Inked to Direct British Film", Variety 6 October 1948 p 2
  11. "HOME AS DRESSING ROOM FOR ACTORS". The Truth. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 12 December 1948. p. 34. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  12. "Film of Austn. novel held up". The News. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 27 April 1949. p. 16. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  13. "Review: 'Obsession'". Variety. 1949. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  14. "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.
  15. Patterson, Kendal (19 August 1993). "'Hidden Room': Terror With a Twist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
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