Whilst An Inspector Calls began life as a play, it translates seamlessly onto film. Written by J.B. Priestly in the 1940s, it’s widely considered one of the classics of English mid-20th century theatre. Due to a strong writing, universal themes and a successful revival s by Stephen Daldry in the 1990s, it’s still touring and wowing audiences in theatres around the world.
Set in 1912, a prosperous family sit down to a celebratory meal only to be interrupted by the unannounced arrival of Inspector Poole (Alastair Sim). A young girl, Eva Smith (Jane Wenham) has committed suicide and he has one or two questions he’d like to ask them. There’s Arthur Birling (Arthur Young), a wealthy mill owner and local politician, and his wife (Olga Lindo) who’s the head of a women’s charity. Then there’s their daughter (Eileen Moore), and her fiancée Sheila Gerald (Brian Worth), not to mention their wayward youngest son Eric (Bryan Forbes). Inspector Poole recounts Eva’s story, imparting revelations about each of their roles in her tragic life. As her sad tale unravels, the pieces begin to fit into place, but is the Inspector all he appears to be?
Alistair Sim is magnificent in the role as the interrogator, a truly powerful presence in front of the camera and an indomitable force upon the Birlings. What works so well in the film version is the addition of flashbacks illustrating the consequences of each family member’s actions on Eva’s life. The 60th Anniversary Edition has been fully restored, and still retains its potency and power. An Inspector Calls’ message is still as pertinent today as it was all those years ago: Our actions have consequences, and whilst we may do things without thought, they can have profound effects on others.
Whilst the class divide may not exist in the same sense, issues with poverty, how we treat those less fortunate than ourselves and taking responsibility for your own actions, still remain.
An Inspector Calls: 60th Anniversary Edition is released on DVD and Blu-Ray by Studio Canal on 12 May.