Sunday, July 06, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Chase a Crooked Shadow (1958) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Kimberley Prescott (Anne Baxter) saw her brother Ward die, so who is the strange man (Richard Todd) claiming to be Ward? Is he a criminal, or is she losing her mind? Or...

These questions are answered in CHASE A CROOKED SHADOW (1958), a solid suspense film newly released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

As the film begins, Kimberley has just returned to her home in Barcelona after a long absence. Late that night a man walks in claiming to be her dead brother Ward. She assumes he is a con man with designs on her money. The terrible thing is, she can't get him to leave and can't convince anyone he's not Ward -- even the photos of her brother in her bedroom are a match for the man standing in front of her.

Police Commissar Vargas (Herbert Lom) refuses to throw "Ward" out of the house, and he moves in with a friend (Faith Brook) and a new butler (Alan Tilvern).

Kim's mind is completely blown when an old family friend, "Uncle Chan" (Alexander Knox), acknowledges Ward as the real deal. What game is everyone playing?

It's an engrossing 87 minutes trying to figure out what's what. Given the first few minutes of the film, I guessed what was happening fairly quickly. In a nice touch, coproducer Douglas Fairbanks Jr. appears after "The End" to thank the people of Spain and to request audience members not give away the ending.

Baxter could play this type of role in her sleep, as a woman who's maybe not quite all there (GUEST IN THE HOUSE) and who also might be rather calculating (ALL ABOUT EVE).

I've very much been enjoying catching up with Richard Todd's career -- I think this is the fourth Todd film I've seen this year -- and he's also quite good as the debonair but almost annoyingly implacable Ward. The role doesn't allow much room for nuances, as he repeatedly toys with Baxter as a cat would with a mouse, but he does keep the viewer wondering what he's doing.

The film has a nice sense of atmosphere thanks to its Spanish exterior locations and a marvelous soundtrack by classical guitarist Julian Bream. The unique scoring is a memorable touch which adds a great deal to the film.

CHASE A CROOKED SHADOW was directed by Michael Anderson. It was filmed in moody black and white by Erwin Hillier. The screenplay was by David D. Osborn and Charles Sinclair.

The Warner Archive DVD is a very attractive widescreen print. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.


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