“The Deadly Affair” Review ✦✦✧✧✧

26 August, 2017

Year of Release: 1966
Sidney Lumet
Paul Dehn
Director of Photography: 
Freddie Young
James Mason, Simone Signoret, Maximilian Schell

Synopsis: A British spy investigating a suicide pieces together a puzzle involving a widow, a former colleague, and a retired police inspector, uncovering a mystery which ties directly into his personal life and hints at a callous murder.

The Deadly Affair Review:

A Cold War era murder mystery which fancies itself as a Hitchcock thriller but doesn’t quite have the technical chops to exceed a throwaway “Poirot” episode, “The Deadly Affair” has the spirit of a Bogart Noir but its distorted relationship with John le Carré’s ‘Call for the Dead’ is present right from the early stages of its production. Rewriting the profile of intelligence officer George Smiley while ensuring that James Mason’s Charles Dobbs is nowhere close to being the Sean Connery alternative to a stuffy man-of-wits, the film sees an uncharismatic protagonist who has more in common with Sherlock Holmes than he does with a suave ladies’ man.

Written like Dashiell Hammett’s worst nightmare as the spy cuckolded by his best friend and taken through the wringer by a polygamous wife, the film fails to address Dobbs’ personal issues as proficiently as it deals with his professional inklings, using dynamic close-ups to underscore key interactions yet never delving deep enough into the meat of either investigation. Remarkable in her limited role, Simone Signoret steals the spotlight whenever she has it, proving to be more than just a name on the credits despite her clipped screen time, yet her presence is always secondary to the pursuits of Dobbs whose mild-mannered approach makes for the very worst kind of interrogation.

Picking up a “Chinatown” injury and pursuing dangerous leads, Dobbs has the stiff upper lip required to make an authentic Sunday afternoon spy movie, processing the aftershocks of adultery, corruption, and post-war shame in a mature but rarely gripping manner as old-school espionage tactics take him to the strangest of places. Preoccupied with the shape of his tangled backdrop, Sidney Lumet prioritises scene over character, reciting Shakespeare in full costume and stuffing his canvas with unnecessary props that do little but distract from the story’s pressing context in a film that could’ve done with a few reshoots before it was given the go-ahead.


Review Date
The Deadly Affair