Chase a Crooked Shadow

Chase a Crooked Shadow (a.k.a. Sleep No More) is a 1958 British suspense film starring Richard Todd, Anne Baxter and Herbert Lom. Michael Anderson directed Chase a Crooked Shadow, the first film produced by Associated Dragon Films, a business venture of Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Chase a Crooked Shadow
Chase a Crooked Shadow.jpg
Directed byMichael Anderson
Produced by
Written by
  • David D. Osborn
  • Charles Sinclair
Narrated byDouglas Fairbanks Jr.
Music byMátyás Seiber
CinematographyErwin Hillier
Edited byGordon Pilkington
Distributed byAssociated British-Pathé (UK)
Warner Bros. (US)
Release date
  • 16 January 1958 (1958-01-16)
(premiere, London)
Running time
87 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom


In her family's Spanish villa, Kimberly Prescott (Baxter), a young South African heiress of a diamond company, is grieving after her father's recent suicide, when she is taken aback by the arrival of a man (Todd) claiming to be her brother Ward, believed to have died in a car accident a few months ago. Kimberly calls the police but the man has a driving licence, passport and letter from the bank in the name of Ward Prescott. Even two photos from upstairs look like the man now in her house. The local police chief, Vargas, leaves, believing Kim to be unstable.

The next day Kim is woken by an unknown woman who says she is Mrs Whitman, a friend of Ward's. Kim's maid has been given time off. A butler has also been installed in the house. Kim attempts to contact Uncle Chan who knows both her and the real Ward, but when Chan finally shows up he greets the imposter as if he were the real Ward. Kim suspects the imposter may be after her inheritance and later in the plot, he and Mrs Whitman try to get Kim to sign a will. However, there is also a conversation whereby "Ward" says he suspects Kim of having stolen diamonds from their late father's company's vault. He has a record of flights she took that leave a gap in her itinerary. Eventually Kim admits she took the diamonds to Tangiers. "Ward" and Mrs Whitman then get her to sign an introduction for "Ward" as her agent to the bank in Tangiers.

Kim tries to escape to the beach house below the main villa. Someone has followed her and she almost shoots him with a spear gun. It is Vargas. She shows him the will and he starts to believe her story. He suggests she provide him with something holding "Ward"'s fingerprints as he cannot fake these. She is able to do this after meeting "Ward" on the terrace. They drink brandy and flirt until "Ward" is on the phone and Mrs Whitman has gone upstairs. Kim goes to the beach house and takes a metal box from the chimney. She sneaks back up to the villa and tries to leave through the front door. Uncle Chan blocks her path.

Her captors take her to the terrace and open the box. With the diamonds on the table they demand she sign the will. Then 'Ward' suggests they go for a swim. Mrs Whitman suggests they take a boat. Kim assumes they plan to drown her and runs into the house. Then Vargas arrives. She begs him to save her as the others have threatened to drown her. She thinks he will reveal the man to be an imposter but he says the fingerprints are a match for her brother. At this point Kim has a meltdown and starts saying that her brother has to be dead "because I killed him". She says she cut the brakes on his car and followed, to see him drive to his death off a cliff. Once she has made this confession it is revealed that "Ward" and Mrs Whitman were undercover police sent to find the missing diamonds and discover the truth behind the real Ward's death.



The film was originally known as The Prescott Affair. The story was optioned by Dragon Films which belonged to the team of heiress Pamela Woolworth (niece of F.W. Woolworth) and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. who had made The Silken Affair. Dragon developed the story and script, assigning it to two TV writers David Osborn and Charles Sinclair. Roy Kellino originally was attached to produce and direct.[1] David Niven was the first male star announced.[2]

Dragon obtained finance from the Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC) who had a releasing arrangement with Warner Bros. The production company became known as Associated Dragon.[3] ABPC's involvement saw director Michael Anderson and star Richard Todd come on to the project.[4] The title was changed to Sleep No More, then Chase a Crooked Shadow and filming started in May 1957.[5] Fairbanks Jr. said he was pressured to make a cameo in the film but refused.[6] Some of the exteriors were shot in Tamariu and Palamos on the Costa Brava.[7] The guitar music that forms a significant part of the soundtrack is played by Julian Bream.


Chase a Crooked Shadow received mixed reviews. Bosley Crowther in his review for The New York Times considered the plot as overly complex and torturous but that the melodrama was "nothing amazing, and neither is this film. It's just a moderately well-done program picture, endowed with a couple of standard thrills".[8]

Leonard Maltin awarded the film three out of four stars, calling it an "exciting, Hitchcock-like melodrama".[9]


Chase a Crooked Shadow was remade in India a few times, as the Bengali-language film Sesh Anka (1963), the Tamil-language film Puthiya Paravai (1964),[10] the Hindi-language film Dhuan (1981), and the Malayalam-language films 'Rahasyam,' Prem Naseer starrer, 'Ithile Vannavar' of Madhu and Charithram (1989) [11]

The earlier two Indian films later served as an inspiration for the French play Piège pour un homme seul (Trap for a Lonely Man) by Robert Thomas. The play served as the source material for various television films such as Honeymoon with a Stranger and One of My Wives Is Missing that originally aired on ABC Movie of the Week, as well as Vanishing Act that originally aired on CBS. The 2019 Malaysian film Misteri Dilaila is also loosely based on these films. The movie was also an inspiration for the 1989 Hindi move Khoj which was remade in Telugu as Police Report and in Kannada as Agni Sakshi.[citation needed]



  1. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Grant, Tierney ideal 'Prescott Affair' duo; Lyceum plan on slate." Los Angeles Times, 8 October 1956, p. C11.
  2. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Niven films multiply in Europe; John Agar career booming anew." Los Angeles Times, 29 October 1956, p. C11,
  3. ^ Pryor, Thomas M. "New film group set up in London: Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and a member of the Woolworth family to make movies; R.K.G. publicity staff cut." The New York Times, 24 January 1957, p. 30.
  4. ^ Watts, Stephen. "Current action on the British film front: Acclaim new outfit showcase. The New York Times, 18 August 1957, p. X5.
  5. ^ Pryor, Thomas M. "Anne Baxter gets melodrama role: Actress to co-star in film of 'Sleep No More,' which will be made in Europe." The New York Times, 4 May 1957, p. 25.
  6. ^ Bawden and Miller. 2016, p. 104.
  7. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Bickford will oppose Ives in Peck feature; Fairbanks deal closed." Los Angeles Times, 9 July 1957, p. A9.
  8. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Screen: New mystery; Anne Baxter in 'Chase a Crooked Shadow'." The New York Times, 25 March 1958. Retrieved: 23 July 2016.
  9. ^ Leonard Maltin (2015). Classic Movie Guide: From the Silent Era Through 1965. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-14-751682-4.
  10. ^ Vijayakumar, B. (30 June 2013). "Jwala (1969)". The Hindu. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  11. ^ Jha, Subhash K. (16 September 2011). "Reema Kagti's Aamir Khan starrer to be titled Dhuaan?". Archived from the original on 19 February 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)


  • Bawden, James and Ron Miller. Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood's Golden Era. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2016. ISBN 978-0-8131-6710-7.

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