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Wanted for Murder / Cast a Dark Shadow
The Cohen Media Group offers up a double feature of vintage British noir films in high definition with these two films made in 1955 and 1946 respectively. Here's a look at what to expect…
Cast A Dark Shadow:
Directed by Lewis Gilbert and released to theaters in 1955, Cast A Dark Shadow follows a young man named Edward "Teddy" Bare (Dirk Bogarde) whose older wife of one year, Monica (Mona Washbourne), requests that her lawyer, Phillip Mortimer (Robert Flemyng), change her will. Edward assumes that this will not end in his favor and so he decides to murder her, making the blatant homicide look like a drunken accident. With Monica having shuffled off this mortal coil, Edward learns that she did actually want to leave all of her money to him, and that because the will wasn't altered in time, her existing last will and testament will be what the lawyers work off of. This will doesn't leave Edward everything, only the mansion he shared with her.
The lucky recipient of Monica's fortune is her sister Dora. However, should Dora pass away, Edward will become the recipient. You can figure out what happens next, right? Phillip, however, is no fool. He's certain that Edward is up to no good, and when Edward starts snooping around as to where Dora might be found, the lawyer lies to him and tells him she's in Jamaica.
Time passes and Edward marries a widow named Freda Jeffries (Margaret Lockwood). Like his first wife, Freda is quite wealthy but unlike Monica, she isn't Edward's senior by that many years. She's also unusually suspicious of her new husband, and very much on top of her finances. Edward knows better than to kill off his new wife so quickly after his first, and winds up befriending Charlotte Young (Kay Walsh), helping her find a suitable property for an equestrian academy she wishes to start. Freda isn't happy about her husband's new relationship, as Edward gets quite trusting with her and tells her that he knows who Freda really is and what she's really up to…
Cast A Dark Shadow is a pretty entertaining old school noirish thriller. Although it's more than a little predictable and you won't really have any trouble figuring out the film's twist, Gilbert keeps the film moving at a good pace and does a pretty solid jumping keeping the tension thick. The cinematography is quite good and the mansion location where much of the movie takes place is nicely shot and, at times, pretty atmospheric as well. Antony Hopkins helps to set the mood nicely and overall, despite the fact that this was very likely made on a modest budget, the production values are pretty solid.
As to the acting, Dirk Bogarde is quite entertaining as the dastardly Edward. He doesn't chew the scenery but he does deliver a reasonably impassion performance and as such, is a lot of fun to watch. Matronly Mona Washbourne as fine as his first, and much older, wife, though obviously she gets killed off pretty early in the movie to set everything in motion. Robert Flemyng is fine in his role, just not all that remarkable, while both Margaret Lockwood and Kay Walsh do pretty solid work here as well.
Wanted For Murder:
Lawrence Huntington's 1946 film, Wanted For Murder, based on the play from the late 1930's by Percy Robinson and Terence de Marney, tells the story of a young woman named Anne Fielding (Dulcie Gray) who is off to meet her friend, Victor James Colebrooke (Eric Portman), one night until she gets delayed by a late train in the London Underground. Due to this happenstance, she winds up meeting a man named Jack Williams (Derek Farr) and it's clear from the instant that they meet one another that there's some pretty decent chemistry between them. Eventually the train arrives and once they're back above ground again, Jack offers to help Anne find Victor. Better late than never, right?
What neither Jack nor Anne realize is that Victor is starting to lose his mind. His grandfather was a famous figure in local history, known as the most efficient hangman of his time, and those morbid skills seem to have made it a few generations down the family tree as Victor starts strangling some unfortunate women to death. Victor is also very much in love with Anne, something he can't hide, but will he be able to stop himself from killing the woman he loves? Meanwhile, a Scotland Yard Inspector named Conway (Roland Culver) starts snooping around, getting closer and closer to figuring out who is behind this recent rash of strangling.
Wanted For Murder is an above average thriller if not maybe a classic of the genre. The film gives us a nice look at the London of the mid-forties, so it has an interesting time capsule quality to it for that reason (with a fair bit of it shot on location). The murder set pieces are well-staged and if the movie runs about ten-minutes longer than it really needs to, for the most part the film proves to be an engaging picture.
Performances are pretty decent, if occasionally a little bit heavy-handed. Dulcie Gray makes for a likeable enough lead and she and Derek Farr do have a nice, warm chemistry together in the film. Eric Portman steals more than a few scenes as a man wrestling with his own sanity and the supporting players are decent here as well.
Both black and white films share a 50GB disc and are presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.66.1 and 1.33.1 respectively. Cast A Dark Shadow takes up 19.8GBs of space and it looks excellent. Contrast is good, we get nice detail and the image is very clean. There's some depth here as well and virtually no print damage here at all. Grain looks nice and natural and resolves well and there's nice texture. Wanted For Murder gets 24.3GBs and looks noticeably worse for wear than the first feature. Print damage shows up on a regular basis and there's some noticeable flicking and fluctuations in contrast throughout. It's watchable, sure, but not on the same level as the impressive looking first movie.
Each film gets a 16-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono track, in English, with optional subtitles offered up in English only. Again, the first movie is in better shape here than the second film, with some hiss here and there but overall a mostly clean and clear listening experience. The second feature has some muffled dialogue, a reasonable amount of hiss and some occasional sibilance as well. Levels are balanced properly on both tracks.
Extras on the disc are slim, limited to a trailer for each film, menus and chapter selection. That's it.
Cast A Dark Shadow/Wanted For Murder are both decent old school thrillers worth seeking out. The films are well-directed and feature some pretty solid performances and interesting plots. Cohen's Blu-ray release disappoints in the extra features department while the first feature looks great even if the second one is a bit worse for wear. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.