Paranoiac (film)

Paranoiac is a 1963 British thriller film from Hammer Films. Directed by Freddie Francis, it stars Janette Scott, Oliver Reed, Sheila Burrell, and Alexander Davion. The screenplay was written by Jimmy Sangster, based loosely on the 1949 crime novel Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byFreddie Francis
Produced byAnthony Hinds
Written byJosephine Tey
Screenplay byJimmy Sangster
StarringJanette Scott
Oliver Reed
Sheila Burrell
Alexander Davion
Music byElisabeth Lutyens
CinematographyArthur Grant
Edited byJames Needs
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
15 May 1963 (U.S.)
26 January 1964 (UK)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


After the wealthy Mr. and Mrs. Ashby die in a plane crash, their three children were left in the care of their Aunt Harriet (Burrell). Three years later, the elder son, Tony, jumped into the sea when he was 15 after leaving a suicide note: his body was never recovered. Eight years later, the other son, Simon, (Reed) is a cruel, spendthrift alcoholic, trying to have his sister, Eleanor (Scott) committed for insanity so that he can be the sole heir.

Only three weeks before he inherits, a man (Davion) resembling an adult Tony appears. Initially he is only seen by Eleanor, who belives that her dead brother is calling her from beyond the grave and attempts suicide, but is rescued by him. The man then claims that he is Tony and had simply run away. Eleanor believes him but Harriet calls him an impostor. In fact, he is a con man hired by Keith Kossett (Bonney), son of the family attorney (Denham), as a way for Bonney to further embezzle from the estate.

Tony hears music from the family chapel at night; when he investigates, he is attacked by a masked figure with a hook. Eleanor had heard the music in the past but had been too afraid to leave her room. Simon appears to be open-minded about Tony but does not really believe him and, fearing losing the inheritance, sabotages the car when Tony and Eleanor go for a drive: Eleanor is nearly killed. That night, the music starts again. She and Tony investigate and see Simon playing the organ with a masked singer; although it emerges that the signing is a recording. Eleanor is spotted by the masked person who emerges with the hook, but is stopped by "Tony." The masked person is revealed to be Aunt Harriet who explains that Simon has been driven insane by guilt over his brother's death and this ritual calms Simon by allowing him to pretend that his brother Tony is still alive. He would play a recording of Tony singing, Simon would play the organ, with Harriet as a masked "singer" playing Tony's part.

Eleanor falls in love Tony and, conflicted by seemingly incestuous thoughts, is about to commit suicide, when he stops her and confesses that he is not her brother, Meanwhile, Simon has been having an affair with Eleanor's nurse who, when she guesses Simon's murder attempt, tries to leave. When he stops her, she threatens to expose him so he drowns her in the garden pond and tells Eleanor that she has left.

The fake Tony investigates the chapel, and finds Tony's mummified body, despite Harriet's attempt to stop him, after the struggle reveals a hidden wall. He is about to leave, but is stopped by Simon, who admits he had tricked the real Tony into writing the suicide note and then murdered him and that he had sabotaged the car. Simon then slugs and binds him. When the man comes to, Simon is playing the organ, with the real Tony's body now seated on a chair. Simon informs the impostor that he and Tony have had a talk and have decided to have the man "join" Tony.

Harriet appears, and persuades Simon to leave and that she will take care of the situation. Unfazed at seeing the corpse, it is evident that she also knew the truth. She sets the chapel on fire with a lantern to protect Simon, and leaves. Eleanor,alarmed by the fire appears, sees the real Tony's body and unties the fake Tony. They flee and, with the chapel ablaze and Tony's body inside, Simon's madness takes him over. He staggers to the chapel to try to "rescue" Tony, but is trapped by the flames and overcome as he clutches Tony's skeletal remains.


See also


Critical reception

AllMovie called the film a "solid if not entirely satisfying entry in the wave of Psycho-inspired thrillers produced by England's Hammer Studios during the early- to mid-'60s."[1]

Home video

On 26 July 2010 a Blu-ray and DVD was released in the UK and made available for the first time on home video in the UK. The Blu-ray contains a restored Cinemascope high-definition transfer, optional music & effects track, the long-unseen original trailer, and high-definition stills gallery of rare materials (exclusive to Blu-ray version).

In North America, the film had been released on 6 September 2005 along with seven other Hammer horror films on the 4-DVD set The Hammer Horror Series (ASIN: B0009X770O), which is part of MCA-Universal's Franchise Collection. This set was re-released on Blu-ray 13 September 2016.


  1. Guarisco, Donald. "Paranoiac (1963) - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
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