The Patricia Roc Filmography
The Gaunt Stranger
aka The Phantom Strikes


CAPAD/Ealing Studios 1938 73mins B&W

Directed by: Walter Forde
Produced by: Michael and Samuel Balcon
Starring: Sonnie Hale, Wilfred Lawson, Patricia Roc


Plot Synopsis
"The Gaunt Stranger" is a mystery thriller based on Edgar Wallace's novel "The Ringer". The Ringer is a master criminal thought to have died some years previously in Sydney, Australia. But when a well known criminal lawyer, Meister, of dubious repute (played wonderfully by Wilfred Lawson) is threatened by someone claiming to be the Ringer the Police start to get interested. All the more so when a funeral wreath arrives confirming the threat, having been sent from a ship coming from Sydney. The Ringer it seems is alive and seeking revenge for the death of his sister by suicide - which he blames on Meister. When the boat comes into dock the Ringer's wife is on board but no sign of the Ringer. However, he is known to be a master of disguise and suspicion soon grows that he is in the country and could be masquerading as literally anyone. The story then revolves around events leading up to midnight, the time at which The Ringer has promised that Meister will die.

Commentry
Although this was Pat's second proper film appearance it was the first that the public saw her in as it was released before "The Rebel Son" which was bogged down with post production difficulties. She plays her role well as the Secretary, Mary Lenley, for Wilfred Lawson's character Meister. Although she is supporting cast she does still get a reasonable amount of screen time and clearly this role will have brought her to the attention of casting executives.

Sidney Gilliat was asked to write the script for this adaptation (which was preceeded by a 1931 version and stage adaptations). Reportedly he wasn't happy with the outcome complaining that he felt the plot, required him to simply string the audience along inventing incidents just to maintain interest until the promised time (midnight) is reached. Personally I can see why he felt this way and attention does tend to waver at times despite Wilfred Lawson being a joy to watch and Sonnie Hale's light comedy relief. Due to this formula there is perhaps not too much to say about the film itself...

However, despite the reservations of Gilliat, the film went down well with the public who liked it's mixture of humour and suspense. Presumably studio bosses felt Pat delivered a good job in it too as she was subsequently cast in two further Edgar Wallace adaptations for the screen; "The Mind of Mr Reeder" and "The Missing People" both starring Will Fyffe. Reportedly inferior to "The Gaunt Stranger" I've never come across or seen either anywhere though they apparently still exist. Perhaps one day they shall turn up.

All three of these films were typical British B pictures of the time with short running lengths and low budgets. When I spoke to Pat in 2000 she mentioned that at this time she was still learning her craft and was really accepting any work she could get: 'You know, I learned my job by doing what you might call B pictures. I think if you're in films you can only learn film by filming. So I did it that way. I took anything that came along at that time in order to learn. So there was "The Mind of Mr. Reeder"... and then there was "Missing People"'.

Perhaps one of the most puzzling things about "The Gaunt Stranger" is where the title comes from and what the thinking behind it was. People often ask me this. There is no guant stranger in the film itself - so what does the title actually mean in the context of the story? Does anyone know and care to enlighten us? Or was it simply a title that sounded good and for contractual or other commercial reasons they were unable to use the title of the original novel, "The Ringer"? Unfortunately it was a question that didn't occur to me when I was discussing the film with Pat.

Availability

At the time of writing this movie isn't available anywhere in any format as far as I'm aware. My viewing copy came from an ancient VHS tape. Quality poor - but viewable.



Back to the filmography

Text © copyright 2006-2019 H Jaremko
PLEASE NOTE: For more information on copyright issues
please refer to this page