Trite, unrealistic, contrived: this is how Joseph Losey described the story of his film Blind Date (Chance Meeting in the States), adding that as a consequence he felt it necessary “that we give it as much interest in terms of observation and reality as we could, and that the characters be very rich.” Losey succeeded, and the result is one of cinema’s three or four most absorbing, most brilliant detective mysteries—one whose core element is not the identity of the killer but, instead, why the case so thoroughly baffles Scotland Yard Inspector Morgan. Beyond a whodunit, we have here a why-can’t-he-solve-it.
As Jan, Hardy Krüger is wonderful, especially in his combustible working-class defensiveness; Jan is a precursor of the British Angry Young Man, except that he is a Dutch immigrant. The grandson and son of coal miners, he is a struggling painter who works in an art gallery. He becomes the prime suspect in the murder of his mistress, elegant Jacqueline Cousteau, but because we arrive on the crime scene in advance of the police, in tandem with Jan, we know that the boy has been set up. But by whom? Inspector Morgan wants to believe Jan but curiously finds his mind blocked from considering alternate suspects. He is Welsh; he is played by a Welsh actor, Stanley Baker, and the name of Morgan, given our recollection of the Morgans in How Green Was My Valley, both Richard Llewelyn’s and John Ford’s, teases us to consider the possibility that the inspector’s ancestry also includes miners. Once he has undimmed his own working-class consciousness, Inspector Morgan solves the case.
Throughout, class-driven slights are gratuitously dispensed, not only with Jan as their target, but also Morgan.
What a fascinating film—and unmistakably a Joseph Losey film.
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