STEP DOWN TO TERROR is a re-make of SHADOW OF A DOUBT and was unknown to me. Without the latter, Step Down to Danger might have been considered an average B. But knowing its origins,you cant help viewing it with annoyance as the scriptwriter tinkers with the plot and we get Charles Drake doing his best to measure up to Joseph Cotten’s ‘Uncle Charlie’.

Drake is Johnny Walters who is first seen in a small seedy room. He sends a telegram to his mother saying he’s coming home for a visit after 6 years away. Two men are watching his apartment.

He arrives in a fancy car and his mother (Josephine Hutchinson) immediately asks if he still gets headaches!

 Colleen Miller is Helen,the widow of Johnny’s late brother. Helen has a young son and is a teacher.

Some aspects of the 1943 script are used –  Johnny gives Helen a ring and says, “It bothers me when I see beautiful stones on undeserving fingers.”

Then there’s a scene where he cuts something out of a newspaper. and Rod Taylor turns up pretending to be a journalist and wanting to photograph the family. Of course  Johnny wont be photographed.

And so it goes on.  Some of the same basic plot lines, but the difference in performance and filming is so significant. There just isn’t the same suspense. It’s impossible to watch it without bias. Charles Drake does his best and does display flashes of the evilness of the character, but he just isn’t a good enough actor for this role.

And of course the whole text of the contrast between the two Charlies is not there.

If Hitchcock had heard about this film at the time, I can imagine the colorful  language he would have used!


3 responses »

  1. We tend to think of unnecessary remakes being a relatively recent phenomenon, but this is a prime example of the breed from an earlier era. It’s pretty limp, as you say, and for exactly the reasons you describe. The 1974 TV remake with Robert Culp, Strange Homecoming, was better.

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