In a new introduction for a study first published 25 years ago, Callow laments that his subject is "virtually unknown for anyone under 40."
Laughton's mannered performances are liable to elicit laughter today. In Jamaica Inn, his performance is "gallant and sardonic, and underneath it all, quite, quite mad."
But in the abortive I Claudius, he gave what Dirk Bogarde believed to be "one of the best performances in the history of the cinema."
The book has acute insights into an odd but potent talent.