Cast a Dark Shadow (1955)

Written by John Chard on November 2, 2013

Anyone would think it was Bluebeard's chamber!

Cast a Dark Shadow is directed by Kewis Gilbert and adapted to screenplay by John Cresswell from the play Murder Mistaken written by Janet Green. It stars Dirk Bogarde, Margaret Lockwood, Kay Walsh, Kathleen Harrison and Robert Flemyng. Music is by Antony Hopkins and cinematography by Jack Asher.

Edward Bare (Bogarde) marries an older woman for money, murders her and finds that inheritance is not forthcoming. Setting his sights on another lady target, he gets more than he bargained for when he homes in on Freda Jeffries (Lockwood)...

You! Whatever you do, leave me alone!

Splendid slice of Brit noir that takes the Bluebeard route and lets the actors indulge themselves with glee. There's a bubbling broth of class distinction and simmering sexual tensions on the stove here, with Gilbert (The Good Die Young) and Asher (The Curse of Frankenstein) dressing it up nicely in moody visuals. From a Ghost Train opening, where the eyes have it, to the consistent symbolic use of a rocking chair, there's a sinister edge to the piece that tickles the spine and tantalises the conscious. We are pretty sure what is about to unfold in the plotting, but the getting there through the shadows and low lights is where the rewards are.

The cast are uniformly impressive. Bogarde by this time in his career was revelling in playing sleazy or emotionally corrupt characters, and he turns in another memorable performance here. Walsh and Flemyng are playing peripheral characters but strike the right narrative notes, and Harrison is heart achingly doltish as bewildered housekeeper Emmie. But it's Lockwood who shines brightest, here at the end of her film career, she delivers a spitfire turn. Freda is tough, has a waspish tongue (the script affords her some great moments) and uses humour as a mechanism for staving off potential peril. She also has a sexy glint in her eye that matches her ferocious laugh!

It sometimes veers towards the over theatrical, and director Gilbert at times misses a chance to really tighten the suspense, but this without doubt is deserving of a bigger fan-base. 7.5/10