The Mind Benders (1962)

UK, 1962
99m (USA), 109m (UK)
35mm film, black and white
mono, English
Production Start Date: 9 July 1962 1Variety 8 August 1962 p.20

A British science fiction film directed by Basil Dearden.

Plot Summary

MI5 are investigating the suicide of a possibly traitorous scientist, but the dead man’s assistant believes that the dead man may have been brainwashed by enemy agents during one of the many brainwashing experiments he was engaged in. Trying to prove his point, he recreates the experiment, immersing himself in a sensory deprivation tank for eight hours to erase his feelings and emotions. He emerges a cold, indifferent shell, a mere shadow of his former self…

Credits

* = uncredited

Crew
Directed by: Basil Dearden
© Novus Films Limited MCMLXII [1962]
Anglo-Amalgamated Productions Film Distributors Limited. Michael Relph and Basil Dearden’s production
Produced by: Michael Relph
Production Manager: Charles Orme
Original Screenplay by: James Kennaway
Assistant Director: Basil Rayburn
Continuity: Sue Dyson
Director of Photography: Denys Coop
Camera Operator: Eric Besche
Film Editor: John D. Guthridge
Music by: Georges Auric
Played by Sinfonia of London
Conducted by: Muir Mathieson
Sound Recordists: Robert T. MacPhee, Gordon K. McCallum
Sound Editor: Bill Butler
Dress Designer: Anthony Mendleson
Make-Up: Harry Frampton
Hairdressing: Pearl Orton
Main Titles Designed by: Robert Ellis
Art Director: James Morahan
Assistant to Producer: John L. Hargreaves
Made at: Pinewood Studios, London, England

Cast
Dirk Bogarde (Dr Henry Longman)
Mary Ure (Oonagh Longman)
John Clements (Major Hall)
Michael Bryant (Dr Tate)
Wendy Craig (Annabella)
Harold Goldblatt (Professor Sharpey)
Geoffrey Keen (Calder)
Terry Palmer (Norman)
Norman Bird (Aubrey)
Roger Delgado [Dr Jean Bonvoulois] *
Edward Fox [Stewart] *
Terence Alexander [coach] *
Georgina Moon [Persephone] *
Teresa Van Hoorn [Penny] *
Timothy Beaton [Paul] *
Christopher Ellis [Peers] *
Edward Palmer [porter] *
Anthony Singleton [boy student on station] *
Elizabeth Counsell [girl student on station] *
Rene Setan [1st Indian student] *
Ashik Devello [2nd Indian student] *
Ian Dewar [crowd ringleader] *
Terence Edmond [1st student at party] *
Robin Hawdon [student in Oxford] *
Philip Ray [father] *
Pauline Winter [mother] *

Alternative Titles

Il cranio e il corvo – Italian title
Il extraño caso del doctor Longman – Spanish title
Fesseln der Seele – German title

Press

1963
Kine Weekly no.2887 31 Jan 1963 p.16
“The picture definitely has a novel, provocative and powerful theme and logically develops it against appropriate domestic and laboratory backgrounds for just over an hour, but gets a little out of hand when Annabelle, a Chelsea-type charmer, appears, and dwells too long on Oonagh’s confinement. Its faults are, however, heavily outweighed by the plot’s topicality and courageous disregard for the conventional. Dirk Bogarde gives a full, if a trifle uneven, performance as Longman. He scores as the intense, dedicated scientist, but is less convincing as the playboy and part-time “midwife”. Mary Ure contributes a sensitive study as Oonagh […] Thoughtful, exciting and moving, if lengthy, tale. Dirk Bogarde, sound support, suspense, frank sex interest, obvious woman’s angle and realistic staging.” – from a review (Your films) by Josh Billings

The Daily Cinema no.8720 (4 February 1963) p.7
“Sensationally gripping account of the hazards of scientific experiment, tensely played by Dirk Bogarde and Mary Ure. Ethically glib in paces and dramatically crude and raw; but frequently tender and witty and always forceful. A commercially cunning concoction with extremely strongbox-office potential. […] James Kennaway’s dialogue is sharp and sophisticated, though his script tends to trip over itself tying up the excessive number of problematical issues which it raises. He has, if anything, too much imagination. There are times when the script isn’t so much suspenseful as outlandish – witness the scene where Longman plays taperecording of manly screams of agony to Annabelle, done with relish. Basil Dearden is one of the few British directors who knows all there is to know about keeping the public tantalised, consistently entertained and eager for more. The Mind Benders is original, startling, thought-provoking, and doesn’t miss a trick – it even has a dog called “Saggy”! Whichever way you look at it, sensational box-office returns seem indicated.” – from a review by P.J.D.

Variety 27 February 1963 p.6
The Mind Benders is a sharp contrast to the “mass market” product usually associated with American International. For this Michael Relph production takes a novel and adult approach to sci-fi that makes the film more suitable as an art house candidate than for general release. James Kennaway’s original screenplay finds the peg for its bizarre plot in “reduction of sensation” experiments reportedly done both in the U.S. and Britain. […] But once the basic story pattern has been established, it moves into a fascinating study of how a man’s mind can be twisted by a laboratory technique. […] Under Basil Dearden’s firm direction, the cast absorbingly captures suspense and gruesome space age qualities frequently generated by Kennaway’s script. Bogarde emerges as a dedicated scientist who shades his role with lotsa realism. Mary Ure’s portrayal of the spurned wife is a touching piece of thesping. Clements is the epitome of a secret investigator – relentless, suave and always sure of himself. Bryant turns in an emotional cameo as a scientist who has some misgivings about “mind bending” when it involves husband and wife. Wendy Craig is largely ornamental as a strumpet in whom Bogarde finds Some momentary interest.” – from a review by Gilb

Monthly Film Bulletin vol.30 no.March 1963 p.31
“Dearden and Relph have, as usual, contrived to snatch a plot out of the headlines, though the ‘secrets’ Sharpey has disposed of seem to be of a kind familiar to any popular science magazine. In fact, and having got on to the fascinating theme of personality changes and the techniques of manipulating the human mind, Dearden and his scriptwriter, James Kennaway, have pulled it all down to elementary Jekyll and Hydism. […] The professional ethics of Longman’s doctor colleague, who has collaborated on a fantastically unscrupulous operation and then apparently forgotten all about it for seven months, go by the board in the process. But The Mind Benders is not so much concerned with anyone’s professional behaviour, even allowing a couple of stretcher bearers to dump the unconscious Longman on the ground outside his lab for no apparent reason other than to get in some reaction shots from passers by. Basil Dearden’s direction shows a dogged, if laboured, determination to prove equal to the vulgarity of the film’s conception; and the players, with Dirk Bogarde as the double-faced Longman, Mary Ure as the masochistic Oonagh and John Clements as Our Man in Oxford, muster a great deal of resolution.” – from a review by P.H.

Motion Picture Herald vol.229 no.8 (17 April 1963) p.796
“The successful British production team of Michael Relph, producer, and Basil Dearden, director, have combined on an intriguing and occasionally compelling theme, and have emerged with a picture of unquestioned interest. […]It is rather an interesting and absorbing dramatic effort, made more effective by a group of excellent performances.” – from a review by C.S.A. [Charles S. Aaronson]

References

Periodicals
The Daily Cinema no.8720 4 Feb 1963 p.7 – credits, review (by P.J.D.)
Journal of British Cinema and Television vol.10 no.1 2013 pp.27-48 – article (Mind bending, mental seduction and menticide: brainwashing in British spy dramas of the 1960s by Alan Burton)
Kine Weekly no.2887 31 Jan 1963 p.16 – credits, review (Your films by Josh Billings)
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.30 no.March 1963 p.31 – credits, synopsis, review (by P.H.)
Motion Picture Herald vol.229 no.8 17 Apr 1963 p.796 – credits, review (by C.S.A. [Charles S. Aaronson])
Variety 8 August 1962 p.20 – credits, production start date (Hollywood production pulse)
Variety 27 February 1963 p.9 – credits, review (by Gilb)

Books
American International Pictures: A Filmography by Robert L. Ottoson p.93 – credits, synopsis, review
Dirk Bogarde: The Complete Career Illustrated by Robert Tanitch pp.112-113 – illustrated review
The Films of Dirk Bogarde by Margaret Hinxman and Susan d’Arcy pp.134-136 – illustrated credits, synopsis, reprinted reviews
Reference Guide to Fantastic Films by Walt Lee p.303 – credits

Other Sources
British National Film Catalogue vol.1 1963 – credits