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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dirk Bogarde Serves Wife-Killing With Afternoon Tea


A Romantic Leading Man Going Psycho in Cast A Dark Shadow (1955)

Lethal charmer Dirk Bogarde disposes of one wife, then goes in quest of a next. Bogarde, a sort of UK dreamboat alternative to Alec Guinness, had become popular in US art houses for doing comedy, notably his "Doctor" series. Would a same audience welcome him as a serial murderer? Sure it works today, modern viewers better used to Bogarde in darker mode. Cast A Dark Shadow has good dialogue (ported over from the play it's based on?) and a possibly best-ever Margaret Lockwood as a second wife/target not so easily fooled. Major distributors passed on Shadow, two years elapsing before independent DCA (Distributor's Corporation of America) took on US release, in 11/57. "Pint-sized" art house 50th Street Guild, with 450 seats, hosted a New York three-week run where business was spiked by five inch print ads on two columns, this in a season of big studio pics cutting way back on newspaper hype (Bombers B-52 from WB ran only one inch on one column for a same week). Observers noted that it was now television and art houses spending a most with dailies, the former using ad space to tout network specials and movies on the tube. A bigger flap resulted from Shadow distributor DCA releasing its product to television while theatres were still collecting admission for same. Harrison's Reports got in a lather, as did showmen who'd trusted DCA to withhold their stuff from the free box for a safe period. Variety search reflects few bookings amongst the keys for Cast A Dark Shadow, and even these might have bailed had they known it would surface in syndication within months.  TCM currently runs a very nice 1.66 transfer that improves considerable over poor videos earlier available.

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