It was announced yesterday that Benedict Cumberbatch intends to star in an adaptation of Geoffrey Household‘s “Rogue Male” (published in 1939). A simpler way of putting it is that Cumberbatch intends to play the great grandson of Cpt. Alan Thorndike (Walter Pidgeon) in a remake of Fritz Lang‘s Man Hunt (’41).
I like the idea personally but it sounds like an HBO or Netflix movie, at best.
If it’s theatrical do Cumberbatch and his producing pallies really intend to stick to the Household plot? Because 95% of the 21st Century audience would probably feel it’s too old-world, too slow and solitary, too lean and not crazy-GG enough. The only way to make it even half-palatable to today’s audience is to (a) set it in the present and (b) make the target of Thorndike’s stalking game not Adolf Hitler but Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. If they did that, maybe.
“Man Hunt was one of my favorite late-night TV movies when I was in my early to mid teens,” I wrote in ’09. “Based on Geoffrey Household‘s ‘Rogue Male,’ it’s about a gentleman hunter named Thorndike (Walter Pidgeon) who manages to penetrate Adolf Hitler‘s Berchtesgaden headquarters as a kind of hunting exercise, not to kill Hitler but to prove to himself that he was able to get him in his sights.
“Then the story kicks in. Pidgeon/Thorndike is discovered by German security, thrown off a cliff, survives, is tracked down by soldiers and hounds but manages to escape, makes his way to London with German agents still on his trail (and with the help of a young kid, played by Roddy McDowall), meets an emotionally vulnerable streetwalker (Joan Bennett) who wears a little metal arrow in her beret. She falls for Thorndike, takes him in, pays the price.
“The principal baddie is played by George Sanders; John Carradine plays another ne’er do well. I especially recall the ending with Pidgeon hiding in a cave and Sanders talking to him from outside, trying to coax him out, and the manner in which the little arrow from Bennett’s beret resolves things.”