Chase a Crooked Shadow (1958)

Herbert Lom and Richard Todd star in this well written and produced thriller. Optimum UK R2 DVD - released 5th November 2007.

The Film

Kimberley Prescott, daughter of the famous diamond magnate who recently comitted suicide, returns to her family home in Spain, completely alone in the world. However, she is taken by surprise when a man arrives at the house declaring himself to be her dead brother Ward (Richard Todd). Convinced that he is not, she runs to Police Commissar Vargas (Herbert Lom), but the visitor has all the correct papers, and certainly appears to be genuine. Moving into the house, with two rather sinister friends, 'Ward' seems to have a sinister motive, but what it is, she does not know...

A classic thriller storyline, probably loosely inspired by the novel Brat Farrar that would later inspire Hammer's enjoyable Paranoiac (1963), Chase a Crooked Shadow is different to that film, and more like its source book by revealing from the start that the mysterious man is not really her brother. Thus the crux of the film changes from whether Ward is who he says he is, to just what his motives are - and this alone is enough to sustain the film for its full run-time, well aided by some good characterisation. Fortunately the script avoids the relentless twisting and turning that often lead to noticable logical jumps in many other thrillers - not that there are no surprises, but they are presented in a much more subtle and understated manner, and all make sense in the end. Ultimately the film wraps up very neatly, with a strong climax and effective conclusion, and although the pacing is generally on the slow side throughout, the film never drags, or seems to be padded. Even a couple of more action packed scenes do not come off as gratuitously as they might have seemed, and are well written into the story.

Director Michael Anderson directs the film in a relatively straight forward manner, but this helps to leave the emphasis on the storyline - he does however manage to build a few scares with some well shock jump-shock scenes. The Spanish locations look very good and authentic, and even the rear projection in the racing scene is not too offensive. The soundtrack from Matyas Seiber is a mix of light Spanish guitar and some typical orchestral scores, it suits the film perfectly. Richard Todd takes the lead role and is absolutely perfect, managing to balance slimy and unpleasant with a real sense of mystery. Anne Baxter is equally good as the tortured Kim and the duo work very well together throughout. Herbert Lom is rather unusually cast as a Spanish policeman and doesn't quite look the part, but his acting, as always, is top notch.

Well written and boasting solid production and some good acting all round, Chase a Crooked Shadow is a very enjoyable thriller, and strong enough to be rewatchable. Recommended to fans of the classic era thrillers, but probably not for those who need break-neck pacing and loud rock music or twist-a-minute thrills.

In brief:

Anyone famous in it? Richard Todd - best known for his leading role in Dam Busters (1955), he stared in a variety of films in the 1950s.
Herbert Lom - a very versatile actor, appearing in everything from Night and the City (1950) to 99 Women (1969)
Directed by anyone interesting? Michael Anderson - best known for Logan's Run (1976), he helmed a variety of well respected films, including Operation Crossbow (1965), The Quiller Memorandum (1966) and 1984 (1956).
Any gore/violence? None.
Any sex? None.
Who is it for?
Certainly of interest to fans of classic thrillers.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio  - 1.33:1 fullscreen. Black and white.
The print is generally strong, with good definition. A couple of brief scenes have some noticable fading.
Audio English mono. Sounds fine, although there are a few audio drop-outs.
Subtitles None.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? No other releases.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. English language print.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 21st October 2007.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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