“Poor Albert. Buried him six months ago.” “I’m sorry, what was the matter with him?” “He was dead.”
Edward Bare (Dirk Bogarde) and Monica Bare (Mona Wahbourne) have been married one year. Monica is much older that Edward and rich. That’s why Edward married her. They have just returned from a little vacation. Monica’s lawyer Phillip Mortimer (Robert Flemyng) is waiting when they arrive home.
While Edward is putting away the car Monica and Phillip discuss changes to her will. When they were married Monica had a will drawn up that would leave the house to Phillip but all her money would be in trust with her sister. Now Monica wants to change her will to make Phillip the beneficiary of everything. Phillip is against the change. He instinctively knows that Edward is a scumbag and is using Monica for her money. She refuses to see it and insists that Phillip bring the new will tomorrow for her to sign.
That evening Edward gets Monica drunk. He quietly drills her about Phillip’s visit. She says she is having a will done. Edward does not know about the first will and what the changes are for this will. He mistakenly thinks that Monica is making her sister, who lives in Jamaica, the beneficiary and cutting him out. Edward arranges and alibi telling the housekeeper Emmie (Kathleen Harrison) that he is going to the library. He comes back in the back door, arranges the drunken Monica in front of the heater and turns on the gas. Monica dies.
The inquest calls it an accident. Phillip knows in his heart that Edward killed Monica but, without evidence, is powerless to do anything about it. Edward is clear of the murder but ended up screwing himself out of the money. Phillip is delighted but Edward is not. Now he needs to find another rich victim.
He finds Freda Jeffries (Margaret Lockwood). She’s younger than Monica and smarter. She holds on to her money. His marriage to her is more for convenience. He lies to her and makes her think that he is as wealthy as her but he is really penniless. Freda is safe for the moment since two accidents resulting in two dead wives so close together would be far too suspicious.
When Charlotte Young (Kay Walsh) comes to town, looking to buy a house, the wheels start turning and Edward begins to craft a new plan. Charlotte is rich and looking for a place large enough to turn into an equestrian school. Edward, having been a real estate agent in the past, makes it his job to show Charlotte around looking at houses. Freda is not keen on having her husband spend so much time with another rich widow. But Edward is as sharp as he is conniving. He’s not done with his games.
“Cast a Dark Shadow” was released in 1955 and was directed by Lewis Gilbert. It is based on the 1952 play “Murder Mistaken” by Janet Green. It is a thriller and a British film noir. The film is a bit predictable but the performances are solid. The acting stellar. There are a few twists, not counting the troubled psyche of all the characters. It’s a dark yet engaging film. Director Lewis Gilbert is on point in creating a film noir that glues your eyes to the screen. The movie deserves more attention than it has gotten.
Edward appears to have felt something for Monica despite the fact he killed her but I doubt that he really did. As a psychopath he only appears to have felt something for Monica and even pretends to himself. I felt that Freda did love Edward but, being jaded, wasn’t really fooled by his charm. She may have been able to stand her ground and not put up with any abuse but there is more than one kind of abuse. Edward, being manipulative, knew a lot more tricks than Freda.
There are also some undertones of homosexuality as well. Edward treats Monica more like a mother than a wife. Also when he meets Freda he is reading a muscle magazine, which seemed an odd choice. There is also a reference made to something he did to a boy who lived next to him when he was young. Something that nearly killed the child. Unfortunately I believe that the homosexuality angle was meant to show Edward as perverted in more than just his personality and love of money. I believe it was intended to show that his homosexuality was one of the reasons he was a killer.
Dirk Bogarde lived with Anthony Forwood, the ex-husband of Glynis Johns, for decades. He never admitted to being Gay in real life since, for most of that time, homosexuality was illegal in Britain. It wasn’t until 1967 when the Sexual Offences Act was passed ending the illegal status of male homosexuality.