‘Twisted Nerve’ is an effective but occasionally uncomfortable psychodrama which, as usual, places a pretty girl (Hayley Mills) in peril but, in a slight break from the norm, put her at risk from a pretty boy (Hywel Bennett).
Bennett’s Martin is a strange young man, however, adopting a mentally retarded alter-ego (‘Georgie’) in order to get off a shop lifting charge, which he keeps up to subsequently get close to Mills and inveigle his way into her family home. This simple, sympathetic persona contrasts with Martin’s true self: self-loathing, sexually confused, prone to sudden outbursts of jealous anger, an avid reader of Krafft-Ebbing and body building magazines, ultimately, a psychotic murderer.
‘Twisted Nerve’ runs into serious problems when it implies that Martin’s insanity could be linked to the fact that he has an older brother with Downes Syndrome, and that this condition could be passed onto seemingly 'healthy' family members in the form of insanity. This is rubbish, of course, and incredibly offensive, and a disclaimer had to be added to the beginning of the film pointing out that there was no proven link between ‘Mongolism’ (their words) and psychotic or criminal behaviour.