Transplanting a historical figure into a new role always seems to be a roll of the dice these days. There’s never a definitive certainty that it might be good or just reasonable, and instead it seems to always be a sure-fire hit or an abject failure; see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and 2012’s The Raven for examples of each. Sadly, while the idea might have been a promising one, the first outing of the Sigmund Freud Files is definitely a problematic launch for this new series, and certainly not a joy to listen to.
A savage and bloody murder has been found within a Vienna theatre, with the victim subjected to cruel and unusual torments. Strung upside down and drained of her blood, many at first suspect this to be the work of some vampire or madman, leaving the police stumped. In order to relieve his mind, Constable Karl Gruber visits psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, and soon starts to learn he may be hunting a very different killer than he first suspected…
From that little description you might guess that the story is going to be more than a little overt, and you would be absolutely right. The actual nature of the killer and the ongoing murders remain ever in question, but it never pushes so far as to turn utterly supernatural on the listener. It’s treated very much like a murder mystery, and oddly that’s perhaps its biggest mistake. Unwilling to embrace the goofiness of its concept, it’s left to rely upon the mystery elements, which are sadly all too predictable.
Many of the failings in this story come squarely down to the script itself, which commits more than a few literary sins. Along with the age-old crime of telling an audience rather than showing information, the killer is so obvious you’ll likely have picked him out in the first scene. Many of the murders seem to have very little impact, and the actual investigation rarely seems to go anywhere, save for a very abrupt, last second, resolution. Worse still, Freud himself is wasted here, offering little more than his name to the story. While the audio drama tries to force in some connection via conversations between the id, ego, and super-ego, this does little beyond bog down and already overstuffed story, which can’t bring many of its elements to real fruition.
The only thing to truly praise here is the performances on offer, with the director and each actor doing their damndest to make the most out of their roles. This offers some hope for future instalments, but sadly their talents are wasted here.
If you’re interested in the series at all, skip this one entirely and pick another file from the collection.
THE SIGMUND FREUD FILES 1 – THE SECOND FACE / DIRECTOR: DOUGLAS WELBAT & PATRICK SIMON / AUTHOR: HEIKO MARTENS (TRANSLATED BY ARMIN PREDIGER) / STARRING: DAVID RINTOUL, CARL PREKOPP, EMMA TATE, NICOLETTE MCKENZIE, JESS ROBINSON, ASHLEY MARGOLIS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW