Chase a Crooked Shadow
Cast & Crew
South African diamond company heiress Kimberley Prescott has returned to her family's villa in Spain to recover from the shock of her father's recent suicide and her brother Ward's fatal car accident. Late one night after Kimberley's maid Maria leaves, a well-mannered stranger walks into the villa claiming to be Ward and details events of their shared childhood. Horrified, Kimberley calls for the police, but when police investigator Vargas arrives and sees that Ward's papers and passport are in order, he accuses Kimberley of playing a game. Kimberley insists that the stranger looks nothing like her brother, whose body she identified at the time of the accident. She shows Vargas pictures of her brother, but the photos are of the stranger in the room. Ward explains that on the night of the accident he gave a ride to a man, who then stole his wallet and threw him from the car. The thief died in the accident, while Ward suffered from amnesia for months in a hospital. Desperate to prove the stranger wrong, Kimberley tries to call her uncle, Chandler Bridson, but receives no answer. After Vargas departs, Kimberley offers the stranger a huge diamond pendant to leave her alone, but Ward instead plays a family favorite on the piano and talks about their father. Hysterical, Kimberley runs to her car but finds the key is gone. Ward then hands her the key and taunts her about her hospitalization in a mental institution after the family deaths. Kimberley flees to her bedroom and, unable to reach her uncle, cries herself to sleep. In the morning, Ward announces that he has replaced Maria with a new "friend" named Elaine Whitman, hired a butler named Carlos and canceled her appointment with Chandler. Kimberley runs to the villa's beach house where she tries to call Chandler, but Ward interrupts. Kimberley, desperate to expose the imposter, calmly asks Ward to prepare her "swimming drink," but Ward adeptly completes the task and even remembers their family toast. After discovering that Chandler is out fishing, Kimberley drives to Vargas' office where the policeman assures her that even Ward's letter of credit at the bank is in order. Kimberley insists she identified her brother's body, but Vargas insinuates that she is suffering from "imagined crimes." Once outside, Kimberley finds her car is gone and Ward picks her up instead, suggesting she stop driving for a while. During the drive home, Ward shows her the cigarette case he received for winning a car race and recalls the thrill of the competition. Kimberley challenges him to beat his own time racing the curvy sea cliff road, hoping he will not remember his time or the route. After a harrowing ride in which Ward comes close to besting his previous race time, Ward asks Kimberley for the location of ten million dollars worth of diamonds that their father stole from the company before his death, but Kimberley claims the diamonds disappeared. They return home to find Chandler, who greets Ward warmly, as Vargas witnesses the reunion. Kimberley is heartbroken that Chandler appears to be in league with the stranger. Later, when Ward demands that she recount her travels after her father's death, Kimberley claims to have left the diamonds in Tangiers, where only her signature can release them. Ward then forces her to sign paperwork releasing the jewels to him. Later, Kimberley questions Ward's conscience and, although he reacts coldly, Ward is softened by her appeal. At midnight that night, Kimberley, hearing a car leave, searches the house in hopes that the her tormentors have gone. Finding the house empty, she returns to her bedroom laughing with glee until Whitman barges in and hands her tray with milk and a copy of Kimberley's will. Putting the will in her pocket, Kimberley runs to the beach house and, believing Ward has followed her, hides in the dark with a spear gun. She then shoots and misses the entering stranger, who is Vargas. When the policeman asks for the truth about the diamonds, Kimberley claims Ward stole the last remaining family asset from the vaults. Realizing her father would be destroyed by the betrayal, she begged Ward to reconsider, but her brother was a selfish man who only wanted money from the family. She learned soon after that he had died and found the diamonds in his personal effects from the accident. Kimberley planned to give back the diamonds to her father, but when she returned home, the police informed her that he had committed suicide. After her release from the mental hospital, Kimberley left the stones in Tangiers, rather than returning them to the company and uncovering the truth, which would have risked ruining her father's reputation. Vargas believes her and offers to help if she will return the stones to the company. Kimberley agrees and the two then plan to get the imposter's fingerprints to unravel the mystery. Later, when Kimberley flirtatiously offers Ward a glass of brandy, she surreptitiously switches glasses, leaving the snifter with Ward's prints on the bar counter for Vargas, while Ward takes her glass. Seeing Kimberley's lipstick on the glass, Ward and Whitman surmise that she has given the glass with Ward's fingerprints to Vargas. Later that night, Kimberley retrieves a lockbox hidden in the beach house chimney, but as she tries to sneak back into the house undetected, Chandler surprises her, causing her to faint. When Kimberley wakes up, she finds Whitman, Ward and Chandler standing over her and the diamonds and a new will before her. After forcing her to sign the will, Ward and Whitman then suggest Kimberley take a swim, and grabbing her by both arms, escort her toward the water, where she knows she will meet her death. Suddenly, Vargas arrives and informs Kimberley that the fingerprints match her brother's. Frantic, Kimberley begs Vargas not to leave her, insisting that Ward will drown her. Delirious, Kimberley sobs that she knows Ward is dead because she killed him. Having heard Kimberley's confession, the imposter reveals his real identity as Police Inspector Williams and calls Barcelona police headquarters to announce the resolution of the case. After Kimberley tells Chandler that she begged Ward not to take the diamonds and then laments that she did not stay by her father's side, the police agents arrest her.
A. W. Lumkin
A. G. Scott
John V. Smith
Chase a Crooked Shadow
The first film produced by Associated Dragon Films, a business venture of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Chase a Crooked Shadow was initially titled Sleep No More during production and is set on the picturesque Costa Brava in Spain. The story focuses on Kimberley Prescott (Anne Baxter), a wealthy heiress who has recently lost both her father to illness and her brother in a fatal car accident. One evening a mysterious stranger (Richard Todd) shows up claiming to be Ward, her late sibling. When he refuses to leave her villa, Kimberley calls the local policeman (Herbert Lom) to arrest him but the stranger is able to produce the proper papers and credentials that prove his claim. He also has made some staffing changes in the house, presenting Kimberley with a new butler and a female companion (Faith Brook). Everyone treats Kimberley as if she is suffering from amnesia and her every effort to reveal the truth ends in failure. But there is one person who knows the truth and can prove her claim - Chandler Brisson (Alexander Knox), an old family friend who knew Ward well. Yet, when he drops in to see her, he greets the mysterious pretender as Kimberley's missing brother without suspicion or hesitation. Is she going crazy or is there a sinister plot afoot to bilk Kimberley of her inheritance and priceless diamonds?
Most viewers will probably solve the mystery well before its final act resolution but there are numerous compensations in the telling, especially the stunning Spanish locations and the crisp black and white cinematography of Erwin Hillier (The Dam Busters , Sands of the Kalahari ). Anne Baxter as the increasingly frightened and confused heroine makes a convincing damsel-in-distress and the movie's ominous and claustrophobic nature is reminiscent of My Name Is Julia Ross (1945), another noir thriller in which a woman is trapped in an isolated mansion, undergoing a severe identity crisis among sinister strangers.
Richard Todd had become a major British star by the time he made Chase a Crooked Shadow but that didn't prevent him from performing his own stunts alongside Anne Baxter in a tense, thrilling driving sequence in the movie, filmed along the sharp twists and turns in a coastal road. According to the actor in his autobiography, In Camera, he recalled, "This is where Anne Baxter earned my wholehearted admiration. For two days we did hair-raising runs along that terrifying course, and she never once flinched or asked for a double to take her place. More than once I nearly scared myself witless, but if she was frightened she never showed it. Perhaps she was unaware how near we were to spinning over the edge at times. Because of the speeds and the nature of the road it was not possible to have us followed or preceded by a camera car, so the cameras were mounted in different positions behind, before and beside the Lagonda, bolted to the car on tubular steel frames...I had to be careful when the camera was stuck out at the side of the car, not to get too close to the rock-face, and was therefore unable to straighten out some of the worst bends. If that camera had hit the cliff, it would have meant a certain crash...It was perhaps the most exciting highlight of the picture, but Anne - who always said she had perfect confidence in me - never knew the degree of risk she took."
Most moviegoers found Chase a Crooked Shadow to be a satisfactory mystery thriller but many critics and reviewers felt that the film's main premise was absurd and overplayed. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, "Mystery thrillers are tricky, and this one eventually becomes so....Frankly, it's nothing amazing, and neither is this film. It's just a moderately well-done program picture, endowed with a couple of standard thrills."
Chase a Crooked Shadow turned out to be Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.'s final credit as a producer though he had acted in this capacity several times in the past, serving as executive producer on such films as Ben Hecht and Lee Garmes' Angels Over Broadway (1940) and Max Ophuls' The Exile (1947). In Chase a Crooked Shadow, Fairbanks makes a rare cameo appearance as himself at the end, urging audiences not to reveal the "surprise" ending of the film. Michael Anderson, the director of Chase a Crooked Shadow, is best known for such big budget commercial entertainments as Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Operation Crossbow (1965) and Logan's Run (1976).
Producers: Thomas Clyde, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Director: Michael Anderson
Screenplay: David Osborn, Charles Sinclair
Cinematography: Erwin Hillier
Art Direction: Paul Sheriff
Music: Matyas Seiber
Film Editing: Gordon Pilkington
Cast: Richard Todd (Ward Prescott), Anne Baxter (Kimberley Prescott), Herbert Lom (Police Commissar Vargas), Alexander Knox (Chandler Brisson), Faith Brook (Elaine Whitman), Alan Tilvern (Carlos), Thelma d'Aguilar (Maria), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Himself - Epilogue, uncredited).
by Jeff Stafford
In Camera: An Autobiography Continued by Richard Todd (Hutchinson)
Chase a Crooked Shadow
The working title of this film was Sleep No More. Producer Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. appears onscreen following the closing credit, to thank Spanish authorities for their assistance in the making of the film and appeal to the audience not to reveal the secret twist to the story's ending.
Chase a Crooked Shadow was the first film produced by Associated Dragon Films, Fairbanks' London production company. An August 18, 1957 New York Times article states that the film was the first product of a partnership between Fairbanks and Pamela Woolworth, who became the U.S. vice chair for Associated Dragon Films by 1959. The New York Times article also adds that Richard Todd did not use a double for the dangerous coastline drive sequence. Portions of the film were shot on location at Tamariu on the Costa Brava, Spain and in England. The film was released in Great Britain by Associated British-Pathé.
Released in United States Spring April 1958
Released in United States Spring April 1958