The Voice of Merrill
|The Voice of Merrill|
UK DVD cover
|Directed by||John Gilling|
|Produced by||Robert S. Baker
|Written by||John Gilling
James Robertson Justice
|Music by||Frank Cordell|
|Edited by||Gordon Pilkington|
The Voice of Merrill (a.k.a. Murder Will Out) is a 1952 British mystery film, directed by John Gilling and starring Valerie Hobson and James Robertson Justice. The Voice of Merrill was made by Tempean Films, the company owned by the film's producers Monty Berman and Robert S. Baker, which between the late 1940s and the late 1950s specialised in turning out low-budget B-movies as unpublicised second-features for the UK cinema market. On its release however, The Voice of Merrill was recognised by its distributors, Eros Films, as unusually sophisticated and stylish for a B-movie, and was elevated to the status of co-feature in cinemas.
A convicted female blackmailer is found murdered in her flat and suspicion falls on three men, all of whom the police believe may have had reason to wish her dead: struggling author Hugh Allen (Edward Underdown) who had previously been involved in a relationship with the dead woman; Allen's publisher Ronald Parker (Henry Kendall), who had been blackmailed out of several thousand pounds while she was in his employ, and arrogant playwright Jonathan Roach (James Robertson Justice) who clearly knew the woman, but is evasive about the exact nature of their acquaintance. None of the three can provide a verifiable alibi for the time of the murder, so Inspector Thornton (Garry Marsh) decides to shadow them in the belief that sooner or later the guilty party will betray himself.
Allen has fallen in love with Roche's wife Alycia (Valerie Hobson), who is tired of her loveless marriage and frustrated by her overbearing, obnoxious husband, and the pair begin an affair. It transpires that Roche is suffering from a heart condition and is not expected to live much longer. He has written an episodic radio play "The Voice of Merrill", and agrees to Alycia's suggestion that Allen should be the narrator on the broadcasts. Alycia and Allen hatch a plot to pass the work off as Allen's in an attempt to boost his career. Going further Alycia then decides to poison Roche in such a manner as to pass undetected as murder, trusting that his death will be attributed to his medical condition and will not arouse suspicion. Roche dies, and Alycia is horrified to be informed that an autopsy will be necessary. Allen tells her that he will confess to the murder rather than see her charged, and she attempts to dissuade him. However the autopsy results come back clear – Roche did not die from poison, and the couple believe that they are off the hook.
Unbeknownst to Alycia and Allen however, prior to his death Roche had discovered what was going on. Knowing that Parker is in severe financial trouble and bribing him with a large amount of cash, he has set up an elaborate posthumous revenge on the couple. Meanwhile, as the episodes of "The Voice of Merrill" are broadcast, Thornton begins to suspect that the storyline is pointing him in the direction of the blackmailer's killer.
- Valerie Hobson as Alycia Roach
- James Robertson Justice as Jonathan Roach
- Edward Underdown as Hugh Allen
- Henry Kendall as Ronald Parker
- Garry Marsh as Inspector Thornton
- Sam Kydd as Sgt. Baker
- Ian Fleming as Dr. Forrest
- Daniel Wherry as Pierce
- Daphne Newton as Miss Quinn
The film historians Steve Chibnall and Brian McFarlane praise the performances of Valerie Hobson and James Robertson Justice, and add: "The plot, which moves with exemplary speed and fluency towards its downbeat ending, and Berman's camerawork collude with a strong cast to produce an ingenious specimen of murder-mystery drama."
- Steve Chibnall & Brian McFarlane, The British 'B' Film, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2009, p. 134.