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The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower(1943)

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teaser The Dark Tower (1943)

Character actor Herbert Lom landed his first major role in 1943's The Dark Tower. In the film, Lom plays a circus hypnotist, named Torg, who falls in love with a trapeze artist. In a twist that makes The Dark Tower a unique crime-thriller, Lom concocts a plan to dispose of his competition he intends to hypnotize the object of his affection into dropping her partner during their trapeze act. The Dark Tower was produced by Warner Brothers' British unit, First National/Teddington Studios.

Lom was born Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru in Prague on September 11, 1917. He made his screen debut in the Czech film Zena Pod Krizem (1937). In 1938, Lom made the move to England, where he acted first on the London stage before making his English film debut in The Young Mr. Pitt (1942). This biopic of British Prime Minister William Pitt put newcomer Lom in some good company the film starred Robert Donat and was directed by Carol Reed. Lom was cast as Napoleon. Two more British films would follow: Secret Mission (1942) with James Mason and the spy-drama Tomorrow We Live (1943). The Dark Tower, only his third English language picture, was next up for Lom. And it would set the stage for his future career -- with Lom cast not as the leading man, but instead giving a scene stealing performance.

Among the highlights of Lom's nearly 70-year career are the psychological-drama The Seventh Veil (1945) and the crime-comedy The Lady Killers (1955). Lom would play Napoleon again in the 1956 adaptation of War and Peace. And he would take the title role in the Hammer production of The Phantom of the Opera (1962). Lom would find himself in a world created by special effects master Ray Harryhausen in Mysterious Island (1961), where he played Captain Nemo. But modern audiences likely remember Lom best for his recurring role as Inspector Charles Dreyfus in the Pink Panther series. Oddly enough, Lom did not appear in the original Pink Panther movie. He did, however, come onto the scene in the sequel A Shot in the Dark (1964). He would go on to appear in six more Pink Panther films, from The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) to Son of the Pink Panther (1993). Lom was still acting as recently as 2004. His last appearance to date was in the Agatha Christie made-for-TV movie Marple: The Murder at the Vicarage.

Joining Lom in the film is Anne Crawford as Mary, the girl he's in love with. Anne Crawford's work was largely limited to British films in the 1940s. She marked her film debut starring in another Teddington film, The Peterville Diamond (1942). Next up, The Dark Tower kicked off a string of films pairing Crawford with co-star David Farrar. The two would appear together in three more films: the WWII spy saga The Night Invader (1943); the crime/newspaper thriller Headline (1944); and The Hundred Pound Window (1944) which also featured a young Richard Attenborough in just his third film. Crawford made a few films into the 1950s, appearing with Robert Taylor and Ava Gardner in Knights of the Round Table (1953) and joining Glynis Johns in the Miranda sequel Mad About Men (1954). Sadly, Anne Crawford died just two years later from leukemia she was only 36-years old.

Crawford's frequent leading man David Farrar plays her trapeze act partner, Tom, in The Dark Tower. Like Crawford, the majority of Farrar's work was done in English pictures -- the most notable of which was Powell-Pressburger's Black Narcissus (1947). Farrar also turned up in the historical dramas John Paul Jones and Solomon and Sheba (both 1959). And his later career included the curious teen delinquent movie Beat Girl (1960). Farrar would make just two more films after that, reportedly commenting, "I was tired of the hassles and battles, and conceit might have come into it - I'd always been the upstanding young leading man and I was afraid of parts being hinted at for uncles or the girl's father instead of the lover! I just felt 'the Hell with it all', and walked out into the sunset."

Producer: Max Milder
Director: John Harlow
Screenplay: Reginald Purdell, Brock Williams
Cinematography: Otto Heller
Film Editing: Terence Fisher
Art Direction: Norman G. Arnold
Music: Jack Beaver
Cast: Ben Lyon (Phil Danton), Anne Crawford (Mary), David Farrar (Tom Danton), Herbert Lom (Torg), William Hartnell (Towers), Frederick Burtwell (Willie).

by Stephanie Thames

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