Friday, 1 February 2013

Cast A Dark Shadow

‘Cast A Dark Shadow’ is a stagey thriller which ends up in a bit of a frenzied muddle but, for half an hour at least, it’s very atmospheric, and it provides a nice ambiguous role for pretty boy Dirk Bogarde that prefigures some of the meatier roles he took on once he decided to break free of his matinee idol status.

Mona On A Ghost Train. Sounds like a Smiths song. I know, I know it's serious.

Bogarde plays Edward ‘Teddy’ Bear, the much younger husband of wealthy Monica (Mona Washbourne). He’s a real sleaze ball, all padded shoulders and suede shoes, a kind of skinnier, gawkier Maxwell Reed. If Teddy had any muscles, he’d keep kissing them.  Monica thinks he genuinely loves her, of course, but you know that Teddy doesn’t love anyone but Teddy and, even then, with a strong element of self-loathing and, probably, crying and hitting himself on the head.  His days are spent driving about in a big car like the Lord of the Manor; his evenings in getting his wife so drunk that she is unable to make any distasteful demands of him. When he overhears that Monica is about to change her will, he fears the worst and decides to bump her off using a big bottle of brandy and a hissing unlit gas fire.

'Have another, love, it won't hurt you...'

Snoozy, boozy, about to be dead.
Teddy has been rather daft, however, as the change to the will was intended to write Monica's sister out and make him the sole beneficiary. As it is, he gets the big house and the big car but no big cash and, as he has no intention of working, this poses something of a problem. Inevitably, he starts cruising for a new sugar mummy, eventually finding one in the shape of publican’s widow Freda (Margaret Lockwood). Freda is easier on the eye than Monica, considerably less demure and, to Teddy’s increasing frustration, more than a match for his rather juvenile machinations.

Teddy's technique was subtle.

Monica's old chair. Conscience or cowardice?

How arched can one eyebrow be?

Fingering his jewels helps him to think.

Take that!

What follows is a fraught and occasionally amusing psychodrama, a dance of death between slimy Teddy and tough Freda which, once Monica’s long lost sister turns up, turns into a bit of an am-dram cluster fuck culminating in accusations and confessions and long speeches and brakes being cut and cars going off cliffs and men screaming like ladies. You actually feel a bit tired at the end.

'Ha! I'm getting away!'

'Steerings a bit off'

'No brakes!'

'A cliff!'

'Oh, balls!'

Margaret Lockwood gives a funny and feisty performance, but the best thing about the film is watching Dirk Bogarde picking away at his pretty boy image as if it were a nasty scab. Bogarde was a complex man full of secrets and lies whose natural diffidence and arrogance could be disguised as gawky gaucheness in his younger years on-screen, but became something dark and cruel as he grew older. In Teddy he finds an early opportunity to express this confusion with a series of contradictory character notes: the ladies’ man who doesn’t like ladies; the cowardly killer; the manipulator and schemer who is actually incredibly easy to outwit; the skinny straight man perusing a muscle magazine. No subtext there, no subtext at all.

No subtext to see here, please move along.

1 comment:

  1. Good to have you back, hopefully refreshed and ready for the year ahead.