Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Fear of Strangers, A (1964)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

In a street in a small town somewhere in England, black musician and habitual criminal Ramsey finds himself surrounded by police. He makes a none-too-convincing attempt to escape, but is quickly captured. Back at the police station he finds he is being charged with the murder of a white woman. Despite direct orders from his superiors, Chief Inspector Tom Dyke, who is facing disciplinary charges, decides to interrogate Ramsey in the hope of securing a confession. Dyke hopes a signed confession from Ramsey will help to redeem his career; and his questioning and methods become increasingly desperate.

During the interrogation it emerges that after a gig with his band, Ramsey had a one-night stand with the woman the night before she died. Ramsey admits sleeping with the woman, but denies murdering her, despite the overbearing and bullying promptings of Dyke, which includes racial and physical abuse. To his increasing chagrin, Ramsey's past crimes are brought out; even his marriage is ridiculed, as Dyke uses every method and angle possible in his frenetic attempts to break Ramsey's spirit.

While Ramsey is being questioned, Dyke's superiors are waiting at the hospital in the hope of questioning the dead woman's husband, who is in a coma.

Eventually, after hours of questioning without food or sleep, Ramsey cracks and signs the confession. Dyke's triumph, however, is short-lived, as his superiors turn up at the station with news that the dead woman's husband has regained consciousness and confessed to the murder. Ramsey goes free and Dyke finds himself in further trouble.