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8/10
One of the Best Entries in the Merton Park "Edgar Wallace" Series
JohnHowardReid29 July 2008
Number 12 of the 51-picture Merton Park series definitely rates as one of the best, despite the fact that the identity of the killer is obvious right from the outset. Nonetheless, Clive Donner is a classily meticulous director who keeps audience interest at a high level not only by presenting an extraordinarily large amount of very effective actual location filming, but some occasionally inventive and always most capable studio material as well. These set-ups include quite a number of astonishingly forceful deep focus compositions—shots that also testify to the atmospheric skills of lighting cameraman, Bert Mason.

The players are far more interesting than the average entry too. Donner himself spent quite a lot of time actually testing all of casting director Ronald Curtis's recommendations for even the most minor roles!
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8/10
Great locations, silly plot
lucyrf22 March 2019
Despite the silly plot about two nameless Asian countries, this is worth watching. It employs a lot of Asian actors, including Bert Kwouk. But the story starts with the slow progress of what is clearly a corpse down the river. Two lock keepers pursuing their slow-paced job fish it out. The action moves to a boatyard and we're just getting to know the father and daughter who run it when we switch to an Oxford college and a roomful of dodgy-looking academics. Theirs is the central story and a lot is packed into the rest of the running time. Will the pretty girl with the distressingly frumpy wardrobe agree to marry the older man who has showered her with attention, flattery and kindness? She has other suitors including the blue-eyed, unsmiling fellow from the Champions. Eric Young is their Asian colleague, who likes to hold conversations with his back to the other speaker.
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4/10
More like 'The Wooden Man'
enochsneed31 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Another Edgar Wallace adaptation from Merton Park, 'The Sinister Man' benefits from fast-paced direction by Clive Donner (with some very effective compositions and one nice 'jump' moment) and pleasant location work along the Thames in the early '60's.

Unfortunately this is one of the sillier entries in the series. First, there is the implausible 'MacGuffin' of a plot centered around international intrigue involving a fictional Asian country (think of China/Tibet and you have the idea). Then there is a very lacklustre cast who seem to want to be anywhere rather than making the film. John Bentley does little to convey any detective powers and Patrick Allen as a supposedly American academic makes no attempt at any accent whatever. There are plenty of the red herrings typical of a Wallace mystery but they just become tiresome rather than absorbing. I could not tell you who was 'the sinister man' because nobody was in the least sinister.

The whole thing comes to a 'climax' with one of those embarrassing fight/action sequences in which the action is feeble, where neither actor really knows how to stage a fight convincingly, and in any case is doubled for their falls by stunt men who do not resemble them in the least.

The final scene gave me a strange feeling of déja vu, until I remembered the Columbo episode 'A Case of Immunity'. If we assume Wallace originated this plot device in the 1920's, then the Columbo writers must - at the very least - have 'borrowed' it 50 years later.
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