CAST A DARK SHADOW(director: Lewis Gilbert; screenwriters: from the play by Janet Green “Murder Mistaken”/John Cresswell; cinematographer: Jack Asher; editor: Gordon Pilkington; music: Antony Hopkins; cast: Dirk Bogarde (Edward Bare), Mona Washbourne (Monica Bare), Margaret Lockwood (Freda Jeffries), Kay Walsh (Charlotte Young/Dora), Robert Flemyng (Phillip Mortimer), Philip Stainton (Charley Mann), Kathleen Harrison (Emmie), Lita Roza (Singer), Walter Hudd (Coroner); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Herbert Mason; DCA; 1957-UK)
“This woman-in-peril thriller is well acted, but director Lewis Gilbert fails to draw much tension from the perilous setup situation.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A thriller based on the play “Murder Mistaken” by Janet Green about a psychotic Bluebeard, Edward Bare (Dirk Bogarde), who is married to an elderly, genteel widow, Monica (Mona Washbourne), who inherited a fortune when her shop owner hubby died. Edward was a clerk in one of her husband’s shops and married her solely for her money, and then schemes to kill her to inherit her fortune. This woman-in-peril thriller is well acted, but director Lewis Gilbert fails to draw much tension from the perilous setup situation.
After Edward gets Monica drunk, he places her on the floor by the fireplace of their stately home and turns the gas on without lighting the fire thereby making it look like either a suicide or an accident. Foul play is suspected by the family lawyer Phillip Mortimer (Flemyng), but at the inquest the coroner rules the death accidental. Edward is disappointed to learn that he only gets to inherit the house and a summer seaside cottage and is left penniless, as Monica left the bulk of her money to her wealthy estranged younger sister Dora living in Kingston, Jamaica and the remaining money to her housekeeper Emmie (Harrison). She was about to change the will and leave everything to him, but she didn’t get a chance to change it after her lawyer advised her to leave the money to her sister.
Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.
Edward has the fine home but no dough. He keeps on the simple-minded housekeeper when she agrees to stay on without pay as long as she can still reside in the mansion. Charley Mann, a real estate broker friend of Edward’s, loans him some money to vacation by his seaside cottage in order to hook another rich widow. This time he meets his match in a coarse ex-barmaid who married the owner and inherited the place and then sold it after he died, Freda Jeffries (Margaret Lockwood). This tough old cookie refuses to give him a dime, but for the first time she falls in love with someone. The well-mannered fortune-hunter charms her and she therefore still stays with him after finding out he has no money and only married her because she was wealthy. Edward is disappointed that he can’t bilk her out of her fortune, but another wealthy matron appears who calls herself Charlotte Young (Kay Walsh). She gets involved with him when he helps her look for a house to start up an equestrian school, but he soon discovers she’s in actuality Monica’s sister Dora who has returned to England because she suspects him of murder. The mechanically talented Edward schemes to kill her by tampering with her car brakes. He will inherit the fortune if she dies, but Phillip intervenes and Edward breaks down and shows he’s deranged and not able to think clearly anymore. He ends up driving the tampered car over a cliff.
It was a somewhat pleasing melodrama, but with too many opportunities missed to make this a more moving presentation.
REVIEWED ON 11/4/2002 GRADE: C +
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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