Cast a Dark Shadow (1955)

August 31, 2009


One of the things I hate about being a classic film fan is that everything I like is locked in time. If two people did not make a movie together, they never will. If their filmography includes 3 films (eh-hem, James Dean) that's all it will ever include. We're stuck with what we have, we can't wish for a collaborative match made in heaven. For instance (and I'm just grabbing this one out of thin air, of course) Alfred Hitchcock will never make a movie starring Dirk Bogarde.

This is one collaboration that I really wish I could go back in time to arrange.

In Hitchcock films, the male lead usually falls into one of two categories: innocent, average man gets caught up in a crime or conspiracy (i.e. North by Northwest and The Man Who Knew Too Much) or a suave, debonair charmer is actually a psychopathic killer (i.e. Stage Fright and Shadow of a Doubt)

In Cast a Dark Shadow, Dirk Bogarde plays Teddy Bare, a young bluebeard married to a much older, much wealthier woman. The film puts on no pretenses: Teddy is a murderer. By learning this so early in the film the tone is changed completely. Instead of wondering "did he kill her?" or "who killed her?," questions which dominate typical mysteries, this film asks "will he get caught?" and "will he kill again?" But what really makes this film oh-so-Hitchcock is the character of Teddy Bare -- a suave, debonair charmer who is also a psychopathic killer.

Like most Hitchcock characters in this mold, Dirk Bogarde is one heck of a sweet talker. Since you already know what a cad he is, you're amused, not repulsed by the sticky-sweet manner he puts on when trying to impress. Okay, maybe this is just me, and I have some kind of psychological problem, but I always end up rooting for these guys. When he is wooing Margaret Lockwood, a brash rich widow, you KNOW the whole time that he had just killed his previous wife for her money. You KNOW that he is a fortune-hunting heel! You KNOW that he will probably kill Margaret Lockwood. But who are you rooting for? Dirk Bogarde.

I've always loved this trick in Hitchcock films. The killer is so alluring, so fascinating that you can't help but be charmed yourself! Dirk Bogarde played this type of role so well, I sped over to imdb as soon as I was finished watching it to see if he and Sir Alfred had ever made a movie together. It's such a shame that they didn't, because I could easily see Dirk Bogarde being a Hithcock regular. Now if only I could figure out how to go back in time...


6 comments:

Paul Brazill said...

Good call!

Nicole said...

I love movies that are like this, it sounds like a really good creepy movie. I'm pretty sure, that this movie is coming on TCM soon, so I'm definitely going to record it. Excellent Review! :)

Kate Gabrielle said...

Thanks Paul & Nicole!

You're right, it's going to be on Nov. 24! I'm glad because the VHS copy I purchased was really crummy, really bad sound especially.

rindolphus said...

I really enjoy your writing. I've always wanted to be classic film literate and I just found a fun way to "prepare" for viewing. Have a great day!

Andi B. Goode said...

I just wish it was easier to find films with Dirk Bogarde in them, here! Oh well, I shall have to suffice with your blog posts for now. ;]
-Andi x

Kate Gabrielle said...

rindolphus- Thanks :) I really appreciate that A LOT since I'm very critical of my writing!

Andi- I know!!! I need to figure out a way to play PAL films in America, pronto!! We miss too many good movies just because they weren't made in America.