THE DARK TOWER
(director: John Harlow; screenwriters: based on the play by George S. Kaufman & Alexander Woollcott/Reginald Purdell/Brock Williams; cinematographer: Otto Heller; editor: Terence Fisher; music: Jack Beaver; cast: Ben Lyon (Phil Danton), Anne Crawford (Mary), David Farrar (Tom Danton), Herbert Lom (Steven Torg), Josephine Wilson (Dora Shogun), William Hartnell (Jimmy Towers, PR man), Frederick Burtwell (Willie Wainwright, ringmaster), Elsie Wagstaffe (Eve Wainwright), J.H. Roberts (Dr. Wilson); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Max Milder; WB; 1943-UK)
“The entertaining crime drama is set in a traveling British circus.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Shot by Warner Brothers in their London Teddington Studio, during the war, as part of their Brit quota films. It was produced by Warner Brothers’ British company, First National, and was not released in America until 2007 when shown on TV. The entertaining crime drama is set in a traveling British circus that’s struggling to survive and as a last resort hires a tramp hypnotist for a novelty act on the high wire. He reverses the box-office slump, but because of his creepy arrogance causes bad vibes among the circus folks and gets involved in a love triangle that results in his criminal behavior.
It’s the third English speaking film for the Prague-born noted character actor Herbert Lom, who was 26 at the time. Playing the villain and stealing the acting honors, paved the way for Lom’s future movie success. John Harlow(“Green Fingers”/”The Blue Parrot”/”Dangerous Cargo”) directs the B-film in a workmanlike way, as writers Reginald Purdell and Brock Williams adapt to the screen the play by George S. Kaufman & Alexander Woollcott.
Phil Danton (Ben Lyon) and his brother Tom (David Farrar) are co-owners of a struggling traveling circus, with Phil running the business side and Tom the artist side as he partners with his girlfriend Mary (Anne Crawford) in a trapeze act. When a lion escapes, a drifter, looking for circus work named Torg (Herbert Lom), hypnotizes the wild beast and lures him back in his cage. It results in his hiring. Torg hypnotizes the agreeable Mary to make her trapeze act more daring and thereby possibly saving the circus. Box-office success follows. But when Torg bullies his way into a partnership with the brothers and then becomes obsessed with Mary as a girlfriend, it becomes too much for the jealous Tom. Torg gains complete control over Mary, and wishing to remove Tom from the picture causes her to let Tom purposefully fall from the high wire during their act. It results in Tom being hospitalized. By this time, Phil realizes he made a mistake in hiring the evil drifter and consults a psychiatrist (J.H. Roberts) to see how he can prevent the hypnotist from controlling Mary’s mind. The shrink says only Torg’s death will break his spell over Mary.
For comedy relief, there’s the boozing ringmaster (Frederick Burtwell) and his nagging wife (Elsie Wagstaffe). Josephine Wilson plays the circus sharp-shooter, who senses from the beginning that Torg is bad news. William Hartnell plays the PR man.
It concludes without an imaginative climax and at times the melodramatics seemed heavy-handed, but there are enough thrills and circus atmosphere to keep things always watchable.
REVIEWED ON 5/13/2013 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/