Shadow on the Wall

Released May 19, 1950: SHADOW ON THE WALL, starring Ann Sothern, Zachary Scott, Gigi Perreau, and Nancy Davis.  Directed by Pat Jackson (White Corridors, Something Money Can’t Buy, The Gentle Touch).  ShadowOnTheWallIn a fit of rage, Ann Sothern shoots and kills her sister (Kristine Miller) after she discovers Miller is having an affair with her fiancé (Tom Helmore).  Distraught, she drops the gun, which belongs to Miller’s husband (Zachary Scott), and leaves the scene of the crime.  In the aftermath, Scott is wrongfully convicted of the killing and Sothern gets away with murder.  However, Scott’s young daughter (Gigi Perreau), who was traumatized by the event and has repressed all memory of it, may have actually witnessed the crime.  While under care in a psychiatric hospital, her nurse (Nancy Davis – who would later become Nancy Reagan), works diligently with Perreau to unlock her memories in an effort to heal the trauma.  Davis gradually discovers Perreau may have actually seen another person commit the crime.  When Sothern gets wind of this, she becomes distressed, and sets out to silence Perreau.  At its core, this is a dark and rather disturbing film.  In addition to a sordid affair involving sisters that results in murder and a wrongful conviction, the primary source of tension for the remainder of the story is Sothern’s attempts to kill a child.  However, within that dark framework, the film actually offers no real surprises and only has a couple of suspenseful moments.  Most of the film is devoted to Davis’ efforts to learn the truth by getting Perreau to recall what transpired the night of the murder.  Fortunately, the on-screen chemistry between Davis and Perreau is strong and keeps things interesting, with Perreau in particular, giving a compelling performance as the traumatized child.  Sothern’s role is an interesting one, because she doesn’t start out as a bad person. Killing her sister wasn’t her original intent, and after Scott is convicted, she even contemplates confessing, but the prospect of dying in the electric chair is more than she can handle, so to maintain her freedom, she suddenly finds herself desperately trying to murder a child.  Ultimately, it’s Sothern’s frighteningly believable journey into the depths of such unthinkable desperation that is so disturbing.  Shadow on the Wall is a dark and sobering thriller, and even though the story is rather predictable and doesn’t offer many thrills, it still makes for interesting viewing.  Also, be sure to look for Barbara Billingsley in a small part as a maid early in the film.  We give Shadow on the Wall 3 out of 5 fedoras.

3 Fedoras


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