The movie very helpfully provides us with an actual medical professional, or at least an in-universe professional, to tell us what is and isn't medically possible as far as amnesia. Amnesia is a popular plot device in fiction, because it explains a lot. If you need to have a reason for a character not to know anything about something they should know everything about, well, amnesia's your answer. It's a fun dramatic tool. And so forth. And amnesia is actually a real thing, too. However, amnesia as it appears in the movies and on TV, not so much. I won't say that amnesia as it appears in this movie is necessarily one hundred percent accurate, though Gods know I'm not an expert on the subject, but it's a lot closer. There's also a lot more about how amnesia doesn't work, which is pretty rare. Though I suppose Hitchcock gave us an unnecessary little psychological spiel six years earlier (or five, if you believe IMDB) in [i]Psycho[/i].
Charles Calvin (Walter Abel), famous humanitarian, has thrown himself out of a very high window. The power to the building has been cut at the same time. David Stillwell (Gregory Peck) finds himself on that same floor, waiting to go down to the street. He decides to take the stairs, where he meets Shela (Diane Baker). They have a pleasant chat until they reach street level, light, and Shela's recognition of David. Only he doesn't recognize her. Slowly, he realizes that there are great big holes in his memory, holes that go back two years. An esteemed psychologist, Dr. Broden (Robert H. Harris), tells him that what he's describing is impossible. It turns out that Shela knows something she isn't telling him, and to find out what's going on, David hires Ted Caselle (Walter Matthau), a detective who, it turns out, has never worked a case before. Used to be a refrigerator repairman. And, of course, he doesn't believe what David is telling him. And then, people start dying.
For some reason, I can't believe that this movie was made in the '60s. Peter Stone, the screenwriter, wrote it as his follow-up to [i]Charade[/i], yet this feels like the kind of movie Gregory Peck would have been doing in the '40s, when he was first breaking into the business. B&W was still a going concern in '66, but just barely. It was, in fact, the last year that separate Oscars were given for B&W and colour cinematography, art design and costume design; it was getting too hard to find five nominees in the B&W category. ([i]Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?[/i] won all three.) At this point, B&W became a thing of nostalgia instead of active use. Just over a decade earlier, Gregory Peck was in my all-time favourite movie, which to this day comes across as vibrant and up-to-date. However, this movie feels dated and older than [i]Roman Holiday[/i]. It's weird, and I feel there has to be more to it than the filming, but there we are.
It's also true that the plot kind of doesn't make any sense. At any rate, it seems to be another one of those movies where no one knew quite how to end it. It is about the last ten or fifteen minutes which make the least sense. It's all about the inherent decency of humanity and how some people are able to ignore that for great heaps of cash or some such, and it's where David figures out who he is and why things are the way they are. And that's great, and I guess the theory makes some vague kind of sense. But only vaguely, and there's a lot which doesn't really connect. It feels like it's another one of those movies where they're trying to make a Serious Point, and it got shoehorned in any way they could manage. And of course the Big Secret doesn't work with known physics--and you certainly wouldn't be able to fit it all on a single sheet of paper. So, you know, whatever. It's not exactly an intricate plot even leading up to that, I'll admit, and it doesn't entirely fall apart. But close enough.
Gregory Peck made better movies, Gods know, but I'm not sure anyone could have made this movie better than he did. We the audience have to believe David Stillwell. We can never be convinced that he truly did wrong--and of course, the kicker is that even after [i]he[/i] believes he did, we are still destined to learn that he didn't. There is no one in Hollywood history quite like Gregory Peck; perhaps Jimmy Stewart, but I'm not sure we could believe Jimmy Stewart in certain other aspects of the character. These days, I think we're supposed to be believing Tom Hanks as similar roles in a Dan Brown kind of way, though I haven't watched those movies. Because Dan Brown. But the fact is, I will watch a whole lot of garbage in the hopes of finding a forgotten Gregory Peck gem. I think he was one of the greatest actors in Hollywood history. I also have a minor fondness for Diane Baker, who was also, the year before, pining after Sean Connery for Hitchcock in [i]Marnie[/i].