Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Dirk Bogarde was a cinema star of international magnitude in the 1960’s and 70’s, his films being screened across Europe and North America. In the 50’s however, his star shone mostly in Britain (albeit shown very brightly) and he was cast in a variety of roles including the comedic “Doctor” series. But some of his best roles from this period and precursors of those parts which made him a mega star, were those which cast him in a dark shadow. How’s THAT for a segue way?
Cast a Dark Shadow (1955) is a shadowy suspenser, very British and highly enjoyable. Bogarde plays Edward “Teddy” Bare (really, Teddy Bare?), a modern day Bluebeard, an unsavory charmer of well-off widows. As the film opens, Teddy is married to the much older Monica or ’Monnie’ as he affectionately calls her (Mona Washbourne). Innocent and trusting Monnie enjoys her drink a little more than she should, thanks to the coaching of her lay about husband. Unbeknownst to Teddy, she means to change her will in his favor, leaving him everything. Believing she is meeting with her attorney to adjust her estate without him in mind, he kills her, making it appear an accident, she being the victim of a gas fireplace. He later discovers he has slain the goose AND done away with the golden eggs.
Running low on funds (as most gigolos) our Teddy Bare seeks the green pastures of a recently widowed barkeep, Freda, who is coarse, loud and heavily endowed financially. Freda (convincingly played by Brit powerhouse Margaret Lockwood) is no shrinking violet and takes the slick Mr. Bare on toe to toe. They marry with the new Missus thinking her husband has as much spinach as she herself. He soon realizes Freda is no soft touch and his eye turns to a new, attractive widow in town named Charlotte (Kay Walsh).
Shadow is based on a play called “Murder Mistaken” by British playwright Janet Green. It has twists, turns and is a bit Hitchcockian in feel, Agatha Christie in theme. The deep black and white photography is brought to the screen via cinematographer Jack Asher, who would shoot many of the best known Hammer thrillers later in the decade and into the next. And not to be left out is the performance by Kathleen Harrison as Emmy, the slow witted, guileless servant, a role very similar to the one she played in her more famous film, the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol.