Edward “Teddy” Bare (Dirk Bogarde) looked well shifty. There was something about him. His handsome good looks were a facade that hid a sinister charm. You see, Edward had a thing for older ladies. Putty in his hands they would become. It wasn’t a fetish for cougars or a domineering mature mother figure that he needed. No, there was a criteria that had to be fulfilled if he was to spend his time dating an older lady. You guess it, money, they had to be rich. He had caught one too. A sweet older lady called Monica (Mona Washbourne). In whirlwind romance they were married.
They both lived in Monica’s large mansion house, part of a small fortune left to her from her father’s estate. She had no children or family left apart from a sister who had emigrated to Jamaica. Monica was all alone apart from a dithering and sweet-natured housekeeper called Emmie (Kathleen Harrison) and her interfering lawyer friend, Phillip (Robert Flemyng) who kept a distrustful eye on this young lover. Teddy had it all sussed out. He was sly and inventively clever. Poor Monica wasn’t well, her health was dwindling but as long as she took things easy, she’d be ok. No shocks or over excitement, besides she had Teddy dotting on her. She was the happiest she had every been. “Lets take a trip to the fairground!” Teddy devilishly announced.
No shocks or excitement, he smiled to himself, as they sped through the haunted house on a wonky train. Grotesque gargoyle faces bolted out in the dark, distorted dead bodies fall in front of the carriage they both lovingly share. Teddy keeps an conniving side glance on her. If he could, he’d be rubbing his hands together in glee. This would be the end of the line for this old gal. You could almost see in his eyes, cash falling from the sky straight into his despicable pockets….. However, Monica had the time of her life. Refresh but tired. What wonderful excitement she’d had with her amazing caring husband. Teddy kept filling her glass with brandy. “Go on drink up my darling it will do you good! That’s it, here’s another!“. He was on to his next murderous plan…
Tagline – A neat and taut performance… a credit to murder mystery play-acting!
Cast A Dark Shadow is a really first rate thriller. Dirk Bogarde in the lead role was a nice little bonus however, it wasn’t him that bought be to watch it. I’d tracked it down because it was written by the incredible screenwriter and playwright Janet Green. She was a name I was unfamiliar with when I first started my film site. That was until her name kept appearing alongside all these exceptional British films that really had me transfixed. The first of which I’d found out to be a trio of social issue films directed by Basil Dearden that they expertly and touchingly made whilst dealing with very difficult subject matter. The first was Sapphire (1959) which focused of racial tension in 1950s London. Next would be Dirk Bogarde in Victim (1961) dealing with homosexuality in a unforgiving time. The third in this group would be Life for Ruth (1962) and the one I haven’t seen yet, this one is centered around religious intolerance. As you can see they are tough subjects to get your teeth into but they are treated with the utmost respect from all involved.
The others I have seen go down the thriller route. Taut drama and mystery thrillers to keep you on the edge of your seat. Two of which were originally plays Janet Green had written before being made into excellent films. Like Midnight Lace (1960) starring Doris Day and Rex Harrison. That was reworked from a play she had wrote called Matilda Shouted Fire. Cast a Dark Shadow was also a play before, with it’s original title going by Murder Mistaken. Two others I have seen. The excellent Jack Hawkins as a detective with Scotland Yard in The Long Arm (1956) also known as The Third Key. The other, in a dramatic left turn away from the drama, is the action film 7 Women (1966) for director John Ford. It starred the fantastic Anne Bancroft a stand out performance from the lovely strong willed, chain-smoking doctor taking on a Mongolian warlord.
Flipping back to the Cast A Dark Shadow I haven’t yet mentioned two other cast members that add to the thrills and mostly the superb dialogue. Both older actresses coming off the back of grand careers in film and television from the 30’s to 60’s. The attractive ladies were now in their mature years and were reaching that point in their careers where headliner might not be assured. One, Kay Walsh who plays Charlotte Young would keep working in film through the 60’s. She has a fantastic little role in the 60’s film Tunes of Glory (1960) where she plays a lady of the stage trying to evade the wandering hands of drunken Scottish Alec Guinness.
The other lady, Margaret Lockwood, would have a tougher time in film after her performance with Cast a Dark Shadow being her last film before going into TV films and series. Apparently she took a lot of the brunt for the films lack of cinema takings. Which seems bizarre after watching the film now because her performance is truly amazing. She’s so feisty, strong willed and doesn’t take any shit from Teddy! However, flicking through some quotes about the film it was sad to read such a quote from Dirk Bogarde….
“The film was a failure. It was the first time I had come under another star’s name “Margaret Lockwood” and it just died, which was a pity because it was a very good movie and I had persuaded Maggie to do it. I remember being on tour in Cardiff with a play and I saw a poster for Cast a Dark Shadow and it had “Dirk Bogarde” in Cast a Dark Shadow” and, at the very bottom, “with Margaret Lockwood”. They altered the billing order because they saw it was dying and that, astoundingly, her name had killed it, though it was probably her best performance ever.“
It sounds like, very unfortunately, Margaret had appeared in a succession of not great movies and I guess they blamed her name on the billing that possibly kept people away from the box office. It does sound very mean spirited. Whether you believe it or not, there’s no denying Margaret gives a fantastic performance here and I can understand her bafflement when she wouldn’t get offered another feature film role. “I’m glad I did it, but am still wondering exactly where it got me!“
Tagline – Superb acting… Margaret Lockwood outstanding!
One other observation I will add is the nice random singing scene. One of my favourtie things in old movies is when a music artist is given a place to shine in a incidental scene. It happens once in a while and always makes me smile. Two examples have been Ottilie Patterson in Where Has Poor Mickey Gone? (1964) and the sexy Marie Bryant in They Live by Night (1948).
Dirk Bogarde goes off to a seaside town for reflection and whilst sitting in a tea rooms he spots Margaret Lockwood character. With a flirty visit to a club night we get a feature from a young singer called Lita Roza who lullaby’s away in the background. Lita would record many LPs with an easy listening jazz style but she would probably be always remembered for singing the novelty classic “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window!“. I found a wonderful little interview with her later in life and she is extremely funny and a saucy little minx. I love her opening lines reminiscing about being hired as the lead vocalist for the Ted Heath Band.
“A lot of the following were girls, because the band was full of good looking men. I think that worried Ted a bit actually as I think he thought I was gonna go through them!… Section by section!” hehe.
I love little things like this. It has an early Errol Morris interview style to it. As a nice bonus there’s a small chat with Lou Preager after, playing snooker and retelling his time working as a dance band leader at the Hammersmith Palais.
Cast a Dark Shadow was directed by Lewis Gilbert from a play written by Janet Green with John Cresswell on screenwriting duties. It’s a great little British drama with a film noir feel and is very recommended. It’s on YouTube at the time of writing here.
Thanks for popping on in and please feel free to let me know if you have seen this one or come back and let me know if you do.
All the best and having screen time, Mikey Wolf.