Friday, August 01, 2014

Tonight's Movie: The Shadow Man (1953)

Over the course of this year I've come to love the Lippert Pictures mysteries of the '50s, filmed in England with U.S. stars.  A number of these films are available on DVD from VCI Entertainment.

The latest of these movies viewed was THE SHADOW MAN (1953), shown on DVD under its original UK title, STREET OF SHADOWS. (There's a title card for the UK distributor, Anglo-Amalgamated. It doesn't seem like that name could be real!) According to a card at the start of the film, the UK print on VCI's DVD runs 84 minutes, which is noted to be 9 minutes longer than U.S. prints.

THE SHADOW MAN stars Cesar Romero, who also starred in Lippert's SCOTLAND YARD INSPECTOR (1952). THE SHADOW MAN isn't as good as Romero's most enjoyable earlier UK film, but it has some aspects worth noting, including a solid cast and a few nice bits of location shooting.

Romero plays Luigi, who runs a tacky amusement joint in Soho which specializes in pinball machines and similar games. He falls for Barbara (Kay Kendall), who is married to a man she loathes. Their burgeoning romance is interrupted when Luigi comes home one night and finds the body of Angele (Simone Silva). He panics and attempts to dispose of the body but is picked up by the police, then escapes so he can find the real killer.

The plot is a bit too murky and plodding, and it's pretty clear at the outset whodunit. That said, the movie has interesting atmosphere, successfully creating a picture of the seedy side of London not all that dissimilar from NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950), which I saw last weekend at UCLA. (Kay Kendall, it should be noted, had a small role in NIGHT AND THE CITY.) Near the end there's some fantastic nighttime location shooting including what appeared to be the neon lights of Piccadilly Circus.

Romero plays his character with a slight accent, a man of some mystery. Why, for instance, does someone who runs a low-class joint like his have an office crammed with shelves and shelves of books? It's never explained, but it adds an interesting touch, providing a picture of a cultured man -- or someone who aspires to be one -- in stark contrast to the business he runs.

In addition to Romero and Kendall, the cast includes Bill Travers (THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET, BORN FREE), who has a small role as someone in Kendall's social circle. Edward Underdown, who plays the police detective, reminded me a bit of Michael Wilding.

Unfortunately much of the film focuses on Luigi's assistant Limpy (Victor Maddern) who is incredibly boring. Much more interesting is Liam Gaffney as Constable Roberts, who enlivens every scene he's in.

In short, I was glad I saw it since I like the genre but the pieces don't quite all come together. This should have been more intriguing than it turned out to be.

THE SHADOW MAN was written and directed by Richard Vernon.

THE SHADOW MAN is available on DVD in the Forgotten Noir Collector's Set Vol. 1 from VCI Entertainment.

Glenn Erickson reviewed SHADOW MAN at DVD Savant back in 2006. He writes that "Cesar Romero proves that he can easily carry a leading role, even when under-written" and says the DVD is "a pleasure to watch."


Blogger dfordoom said...

I totally agree. The Lippert crime B-movies made in England are mostly quite entertaining and some are very good indeed. Their US productions from the same era are worth a look as well.

1:29 AM  

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