A marvellous example of
the quota quickies produced in Britain during the 1930's to combat the ever growing
domination by American releases.
If you enjoy the absurd edges of the horror movie genre, look no further than Shot in the
Dark, a feeble, but nevertheless entertaining slice of hokum.
Shot in the Dark (1933)
(Real Art) 56mins. BW.
Credits: Dir: George Pearson Prod: Julius Hagen Sc: H.
Fowler Mear Ph: Ernest Palmer Ed: Lister Laurance Art: James A. Carter. Adapted from a
novel and stage play by Gerard Fairlie.
Cast: O.B. Clarence, Dorothy Boyd, Jack Hawkins,
Russell Thorndike, Davy Burnaby, Michael Shepley, Margaret Yarde, A. Bromley Davenport, Hugh E. Wright, Henrietta
We've heard it all before havn't we? Ed Wood's PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is the
worst film ever made, but people are quick to forget the plethora of films, commonly
referred to as "quota-quickies", that Britain was churning out during the early
'30s to keep their industry ticking over during the monopoly America was exerting upon the
film world by block-booking their productions for American-owned cinemas in Europe (a
practice which still continues to this day...).
Well, we nominate SHOT IN THE DARK as the worst film ever made! But this
is not to detract anything from its entertainment value. Films such as these were produced
on both a limited budget and a limited time scale. Taking this into consideration, these
films are little marvels for what they could achieve, and earn themselves a position in
the annals of film history. Many famous actors made their first film appearances in these
pictures, but now that many of them are lost to us forever, the recognition of the
remaining few becomes a neccessity.
SHOT IN THE DARK begins with a title-card boasting "An All-star cast".
From here on you know you're not going to recognise a single player, unless that is you
harbour a passionate interest in identifying forgotten character actors.
In a suitably creepy old house, eccentric Peter Browne, (A. Bromley Davenport), lays on
his deathbed grumbling and moaning about how everyone wants to bump him off. A shot is
heard and someone has gratefully obliged.
At the reading of the will recorded on a gramaphone disc all his relatives are present
when the lights go out and the disc has suddenly been mislaid...,or was it...Stolen?!!
The cast proceed to wander aimlessly around the confines of the stage in front of a static
camera, mumbling to themselves, while supposedly searching for the missing disc.
Enter our hero, the holier-than-thou Reverend John
Makeham (O.B.Clarence, the very same who provided the voice-over for Bela Lugosi as Dr. Dearborn in Dark Eyes Of London), who has just by chance hit a
wayward shot from the eighteenth hole and smashed one of the house windows. With the
mildest apology, Makeham enters the fray, eavesdropping on the up until now private family
gathering, and proceeds to assign himself the role of detective. Many unconvincing red-herrings seem to confess willingly to the
virtually asking the man-of-the-cloth to clap them in irons and lead them away, but the
Reverend calmly reduces their confessions to absolute nonsense by providing an equally
implausible version of the events.
the real culprit, an archetypal English "silly-ass" deliciously
named Vivian Waugh, played to the hilt by Michael Shepley, shows his hand and while
accompanied by nerve-pounding music, (other than the intro, the only score in the film), a
frantic fight ensues with Vivvy and a 50-year old policeman, the type that always seemed
to be permanently employed in films of this ilk. This portly, slow and remarkably dense
constable overcomes Vivian who meets his demise against a conveniently huge power
generator securely kept behind two flimsy doors that open inwards...
With the missing record recovered, Peter Browne's daughter Alaris is revealed to be the
sole inheritor of the estate.
The love interest is provided by 23 year old Jack Hawkins as Norman Paul,
making one of his earliest film appearances, and old man Browne's daughter Alaris
performed with equal gusto by Dorothy Boyd. As a couple, Alaris has to endure the
octopus-like pawings from Norman, while providing the best of the inane dialogue filled
with plenty of pregnant pauses as the actors visibly attempt to prompt each other to
remember their lines.
The cast are further hampered by the extremely theatrical direction, (the tale being
transferred almost verbatim from its earlier stage treatment), as each stands vigilantly
upon their 'X'-marks to deliver their badly written diatribes.
Director George Pearson, a film pioneer who was at the top of his profession during the
'20s, and having worked on the successful JOURNEY'S END (1930) alongside James
Whale, spoke very little of his involvement with the quota-quickie's in his 1957
In addition to the motley collection of actors is author Russell Thorndike, who penned
his sister's biography "Sybil Thorndike" (1950), and the seminal
smuggling yarn "Dr. Syn". However, his talents did not extend to the
acting profession as is evident by his zealous portrayal of the drug-addicted doctor
who believes he accidentally administered old man Browne a fatal dose of poison.
The film only runs for 56 minutes, but afficionados could watch this for much longer,
while others remain thankful for its brevity.
Although not strictly of the horror genre, SHOT IN THE DARK ranks as a favourite
example of its type, and if you get a chance to catch it on television, get the recorder
ready! If your appetite for the film is such that you cannot wait for the slim chance of a
re-run, One video company carries a copy with a rather misleading caption that reads: "An
old dark house thriller".
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