Thursday 28 January 2010

Chase a Crooked Shadow: review

I posted recently on the similarities between the Osborn-Sinclair screenplay for the 1958 film Chase a Crooked Shadow, and Robert Thomas’s play Trap for a Lonely Man. The film, which is in black and white, is a minor classic of psychological suspense. Even if you know the essentials of the plot (which in its various guises is pretty familiar these days) there is a good deal of pleasure to be had from watching events unfold.

A diamond heiress called Kimberley Prescott (played by Anne Baxter) is spending time at a villa on the coast near Barcelona. An apparently doting elderly uncle lives nearby. But one day, an enigmatic stranger (Richard Todd, who died just before Christmas) turns up on her doorstep, claiming to be her brother Ward, a racing driver. The snag is that Ward died a year back in a car accident, and Kimberley identified the body.

She calls the police (in the form of the eternally sinister Herbert Lom) but the intruder’s ID is in order, and the cop departs, thinking that the girl is neurotic. ‘Ward’ brings in a female associate (Faith Brook, whom I have always thought an under-estimated performer) and even a new butler, and Kimberley’s terror mounts as it becomes clear that the newcomers are playing their mysterious game for very high stakes.

There are some great twists in the story, the acting is competent, and Julian Bream’s guitar music adds to the atmosphere created by Michael Anderson’s direction. This is a very entertaining thriller, and at less than five quid from Amazon, it was also a real bargain.

Footnote one – Faith Brook’s father Clive was also an actor, and one of his final roles was in the film of that Philip Macdonald classic, The List of Adrian Messenger. Much earlier, he was in a 1920 version of Trent’s Last Case, and he also played Sherlock Holmes in three films.

Footnote two – Herbert Lom was born in Prague, and his real name was Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru. Bet you didn’t know that!


Anonymous said...

Martin - Thanks for this excellent review; how very fascinating that movie sounds!! I'd also like to thank you especially for the footnotes. I love little tidbits like that. I suppose I'm a trivia junkie : )

Emma Michaels said...

Nope, I didn't know that. Great post!

Ann Elle Altman said...

Oh, what an interesting movie. You make me want to watch it immediately to see how she gets out of that situation. Thanks for the recommendation.


Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Margot, Emma and Ann. I'm a trivia junkie too. A good film, and if you watch it, I don't think you'll be disappointed.