Paranoiac (1963)

paranoiac poster 1963 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Creepy mask lady, fun twisting Hitchcock style story

Twists a bit too much

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Paranoiac

Studio:  Hammer Film Productions

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  May 15, 1963 (US)/January 26, 1964 (UK)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

paranoiac scary mask

The bigger question is…why would anyone own this mask?

Eleanor Ashby (Janette Scott) and her brother Simon (Oliver Reed) are the last in their line.  Living with their Aunt Harriet (Sheila Burrell), Eleanor and Simon’s parents were killed when they were children and their brother Tony committed suicide years ago.  Now, Simon and his sister are about to inherit their portion of the family fortune, but the appearance of a man (Alexander Davion) claiming to be Tony could mean trouble.  Tony might not be all that he may seem, but a budding relationship with Eleanor could uncover a greater mystery.

Directed by Freddie Francis, Paranoiac is a Hammer horror production.  The movie was fairly well received and was released as a double-billing with The Kiss of the Vampire.

paranoiac oliver reed underwater shot

Hitchcock, eat your heart out!!!

Paranoiac was a pleasant surprise.  The movie appeared to be birthed out of Hitchcock films like Psycho, but it has enough twists and turns of its own to be better than a simple Hitchcock knock-off.  Due to the style and storytelling of the film, *****Spoiler Alert***** is activated throughout the review.

The story for Paranoiac has a lots of paths that it travels down (and probably a bit too many for its own good).  The movie’s set-up is a bit confusing and a bit hard to follow at first with the parents’ deaths and the brother’s recounted in flashbacks.  The film starts out as a simple attempt to gaslight the sister by her brother in order to get the fortune, but the plot rapidly changes upon the arrival of the missing (presumed dead) Tony.  The concept of who is insane also gets thrown around a bit too much, but it is fun to see Oliver Reed’s character enter the abyss of madness.

paranoiac janette scott car accident

Wait…you didn’t say “reverse”?

Oliver Reed gets the meatiest role in the movie as the said “paranoiac”.  He really hams it up once he is revealed to be insane.  It is the type of role that is probably fun for an actor, and Reed seems to enjoy it.  Janette Scott and Alexander Davion do a good job as the “Hitchcock couple” who are thrown together by fate to solve the mystery and both characters are flawed but charming and the awkward situation of Scott’s character believing that she is falling in love with her brother also adds to the tension.

The film is really aided by the black and white shooting.  It could have easily been a color film, but it would have lost a lot of its atmosphere (much like Psycho).  I do have to say that creepy masked “monster” of the film is effective and reminds me of other movies like Alice, Sweet Alice which had a similar masked killer…I just wish that movie had kept the mystery of the masked figure longer.

paranoiac tonys body

I’ve felt better…

Paranoiac is a fun little ride and does hold up in multiple viewings.  The movie has some surprisingly stylish shots that are much more experimental than a lot of what Hammer was putting out.  The good cast and creepy atmosphere if the film helps it work as a good suspense film (and less of a horror film).  While Paranoiac owes a lot of its style and atmosphere to Psycho, the movie stands on its own and is worth seeking out.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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