Thursday, December 3, 2015

Guilt Is My Shadow (1950)

Guilt Is My Shadow is a low-key 1950 crime drama from Associated British Pictures.

The movie opens dramatically enough with a bank robbery gone wrong. The getaway driver is the only member of the gang to escape. The driver is a young man named Jamie (Peter Reynolds) and deciding that it would be advisable to make himself scarce for a while he hides out on his uncle’s farm.

Jamie’s uncle is Kit (Patrick Holt) and he’s a bit of a recluse. The farm is fairly isolated and that’s how he likes it. Kit is not overly enthusiastic about having his nephew staying with him but family is family and there’s not much he can do. Kit is also a little suspicious of his nephew, which suggests (although it isn’t actually stated) that Jamie has perhaps been a somewhat wild young man.

Jamie is not exactly cut out for the rural life. He makes no secret of his contempt for the farm, for the inhabitants of the nearby village and for everything associated with life in the countryside. He has a certain facile charm but it is soon apparent that he is a practised liar and a thief, and in general is totally selfish and amoral. Her and Kit do not hit it off but free board and lodging is free board and lodging and Jamie seems inclined to stay.

He gets himself a job in the local garage where he unashamedly cheats the customers.

All is going well for Jamie until his wife Linda (Elizabeth Sellars) suddenly arrives. It’s obvious that the marriage is not a successful one and it’s equally obvious that Jamie is not pleased by Linda’s arrival. He doesn’t let her presence cramp his style though and he is soon in pursuit of Betty (Lana Morris). Betty is the sort of girl who likes charming bad boys.

To complicate things it’s clear that Kit is growing very fond indeed of Linda and it’s also clear that she reciprocates his feelings.

Of course this tense situation becomes a powder keg waiting to explode and eventually it does explode, with fatal consequences for one of the parties involved.

It seems that this unfortunate outcome might never come to light but while you may be able to conceal guilt from the police you cannot conceal it from yourself. Sooner or later you discover that guilt really is your shadow.

The opening sequence might lead you to expect a gritty urban crime thriller but what you get is more of a rural psychological melodrama.

This is a fairly well acted film. The standout performance comes from Elizabeth Sellars as Linda but both Patrick Holt and Peter Reynolds are very good. Linda is a pleasant young woman who is clearly wounded by her husband’s indifference to her. Jamie is clearly a wrong ’un from the start but Reynolds doesn’t overdo it. He plays Jamie as a thoughtless self-centred  personality who has never wasted a single moment considering anyone else’s feelings or interests. He’s not evil; he’s simply indifferent to other human beings.

Director Roy Kellino had an undistinguished career in movies before moving into television but he does a capable job here. He has a good eye for composition and he shows some imagination without being in the least gimmicky. The screenplay, by Kellino, Ivan Foxwell and John Gilling (whom I’ve written about quite a lot recently), is solid if somewhat less than startlingly original. It was based on a novel by Norah Lofts.

The location shooting (in Devon) is impressive and quite atmospheric and a pleasant surprise in a low-budget 1950s British movie. The dream sequences are a good example of what you achieve with very little money if you know what you’re doing. They’re effective and subtle.

This is as I said earlier a low-key crime film. In fact many modern viewers might find it to be a bit too low-key. There is suspense but it never really builds to nail-biting levels. The pacing for the first half of the movie is quite leisurely. It’s a story that probably could have been done quite successfully as a one-hour television drama. At 86 minutes it’s definitely just a touch overlong.

Network’s Region 2 DVD offers an excellent transfer.

Guilt Is My Shadow is an understated little movie that works quite well. Recommended.


  1. Very good review of an overlooked film, thanks.

  2. The branchline train pulling into Welford is actually Staverton on the preserved line the South Devon Railway.
    The locomotive no.1470 was a regular on the line which ran to Ashburton and closed in 1964