12 May 2018 | secondtake
Great scenery, nice photography, wonderful guitar, torturous plot
Chase a Crooked Shadow (1958)
This dives quickly in--an heiress has come to Barcelona and a man who is apparently after her fortune shows up, at night, with cocky assurance. It's evil and it's odd. The woman is played with stern conviction by Anne Baxter, and she holds the whole movie together.
The filming is vivid, and dark and shadowy from the get go, in moderately wide screen black and white. When it goes to daylight, the crips, tonal perfection of the image is quite noticeable. That might be an odd reason to like the movie, but it's quite visually beautiful. I suppose the East Coast of Spain gets some credit.
Unfortunately, the plot at first comes off as improbable, with a couple of twists at the beginning that left me incredulous. But the acting is so earnest you can put up with it for awhile. When it becomes a kind of mind game between the two leads, it has some reasonable thread (some) and it is only the steely determination of Baxter's acting that keeps it interesting.
The plot against this woman is elaborate, and therefore scary, held in check by the upper class politeness of all the characters. I'm sure people would compare this to Hitchcock for its personal suspense, its stylish attempts at mind games, or for echoes of "Gaslight" and "Rebecca."
It's a British movie, released by Warner Bros., and it might suffer from a sense of imitating Hollywood rather than making its own mark (as Carol Reed might have a few years earlier). The British director here is Michael Anderson, who left no real imprint on film history, and the leading actor is also British, Richard Todd, and he's more handsome than compelling.
So why see the film? The palette of grey tones of the deep focus photography? The torturous plot with too much talking? Anne Baxter, alone, rising above? Maybe, almost. There is enough in these elements to almost work, actually. Convolutions. And Julian Bream's wonderful guitar.