Newly arrived in London from America, Ann Lake (Carol Lynley) reports her four-year-old daughter missing from the Little People’s Garden School in Hampstead on what was to have been her first day.
It appears to be a kidnapping but the police can find no clues to the alleged crime, nor any trace that the child actually existed – nobody at the school even saw her and there’s no evidence of her voyage from the US.
Ann’s brother, Steven (Keir Dullea demonstrating that he was an unconventional actor even prior to 2001: A Space Odyssey) – who has incestuous leanings – starts the investigation, but the solving is left to the man from the Yard, Superintendent Newhouse (Laurence Olivier).
To compensate for a protracted climax and a lightweight outcome, John and Penelope Mortimer peppered the script with outlandish minor eccentricities, among them Martita Hunt as a retired headmistress and Noël Coward as a cringing alcoholic with an extensive collection of whips.
Olivier and Noël Coward may have regarded this as a bit of slumming, from the way they camp it up, but it’s Preminger’s gimmickry that makes it such fun.