Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Fallen Idol - Criterion Collection|
Actors: Ralph Richardson, Michele Morgan, John Boorman, Joseph Cotten, Bryan Forbes
Directors: Andy Kelleher, Carol Reed
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
The Fallen Idol was the first of three collaborations between director Carol Reed and writer Graham Greene, who would later team up on the legendary The Third Man, and is a small masterpiece itself. An elegant, thrilling b... more »
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Lewis P. (Turfseer) from NEW YORK, NY
Reviewed on 11/23/2010...
Where was Hitchcock when you needed him?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For awhile, 'The Fallen Idol" was part of the Criterion Collection but according to what I've read, the rights have now been acquired by Lionsgate. Be that as it may, any film that ends up as part of the Criterion Collection (even for a short while) is supposed to be considered a highly rated 'art' film, if not a 'masterpiece.' Certainly the film has things going for it including some wonderful noirish cinematography, Director Carol Reed's remarkable coaching job of a child actor, solid acting performances on the part of the adult actors and haunting on-location shots in 1948 London.
Despite the classy 'look' of the film, the screenplay itself is weak and as a result, I relegate the whole affair to the pantheon of 'B' melodrama. The weakest aspect of the film is obvious: the character of Mrs. Baines, who is just such a vapid, unlikeable martinet who would have been probably diagnosed as bipolar if she were alive today. And is Mr. Baines much better a character than the evil Mrs.? What exactly do we find out about the wily butler besides the back story that he killed a black man while he was living in Africa before working at the Embassy? As it turns out, that's just a tall tale Baines has made up to impress Phillipe. Otherwise, Baines spends most of his time trying to convince Phillipe to keep his mouth shut so that no one finds out about his affair with Julie, an Embassy employee who works in the steno pool.
I suppose it was very progressive of director Reed to hold up Baines and Julie as 'the good guys' despite the fact that they were having an affair (Reed himself was the product of an illegitimate union). But why should we hold them in such high esteem? Just because they're the victims of the unreasonable Mrs. Baines? I appreciate the fact that Baines wins points because he's kind to Phillipe but really that's all we know about him. And as far as Julie is concerned—to my mind, she's seems to be a complete empty vessel.
In watching the documentary about director Reed as part of the DVD 'supplement', we learn that he was master in extracting wonderful performances from the child actors he worked with during his long career. The case of Bobby Henrey who played Phillipe was no exception. Henrey reportedly could never sit still and eventually Reed had to hire a magician to perform tricks for the boy in order to keep his attention. Reed expertly brings out the child's confusion as he misunderstands the reason for Mrs. Baines' death which leads to Baines being placed in jeopardy (the child believes that Baines 'murdered' his wife after confusing that event with Baines' tall tale which initially the butler appeared to communicate as a 'murder' but later clarifying it as 'self defense').
The rest of "Fallen Idol" involves the rather stodgy police investigation into Mrs. Baines' death. Will the boy gum things up despite attempting to cover for the butler at every turn? Since he's just a kid, he's unable to cover up the discrepancies in Baines and Julies' story and after they're found out, Baines is on the verge of suicide. Fortunately an eagle eyed cop comes upon Mrs. Baines' footprint next to the window where she fell; this of course ends up exonerating the happy (or shall we say semi-happy) couple. I believe that the original ending from the book the film was based on, was Baines doing himself in, and some internet posters would prefer the more unpleasant denouement. I was actually pleased that the films' scenarists changed the ending to a happy one as the thought of having that child experience such an awful event as suicide would have ruined the picture for me.
If there is a moral in this story, it's probably 'always be honest' because Baines and Julies' decision not to tell the truth almost led to their arrest and complete downfall. Despite the fact they prevail in the end, I would have much preferred that Phillipe had a direct hand in saving them. As it turned out, it was pure coincidence that saved Baines from the hangman's noose and not little Phillipe who will only be remembered for not being able to keep his big mouth shut.
Like Hitchcock, The Fallen Idol is concerned with an innocent man being unjustly accused. Unlike Hitchcock, the characters of The Fallen Idol have little or no ambiguity. And when the protagonist is finally saved, it's not from his own exciting efforts or efforts on the part of a valuable ally (in this case, a nine year old boy) but from a slow-paced, pedestrian police investigation. Where was Hitchcock when you needed him?
As impeccable as its title hero
Jay Dickson | Portland, OR | 03/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Carol Reed was perhaps even more famous in his day for coaxing superb performances out of children than Steven Spielberg is today... and much of it is due to the astonishing performance in this marvelous film by Bobby Henrey as Phillipe, the son of the French Ambassador to the UK. Henrey delivers what must be one of the greatest child's performances ever on screen (right up there with little Victoire Thivisol in PONETTE). Phile idolizes the butler at the embassy, the sweet but very ordinary Baines (Ralph Richardson), and when his hero becomes accused of murder in the death of his wife young Phile becomes wrapped up in the police investigation. The film does a superb job switching back and forth from a child's to an adult's register--we see things both from Phile's limited child's point of view (and understand his inability to put things together given his naievete), and we also see from an adult perspective how his attempts to help his idol only make things worse and worse. The film is beautifully shot--the embassy itself is something of a marble and tile wonder--and Henrey's frantic need for attention and his jumpy manner (and endearing lisp: "He PUTHED her...") make him seem as real a small child as you can imagine."
Touching, Sensitive Movie of Love, Frustration and Adulation
Jay Dickson | 06/08/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a wonderful movie, superbly written. It has such a subtle way about the frustration of two incompatible spouses, the last-ditch attempt of one to change his life for the better, and his relationship with a young boy in his charge who understands nothing and looks up to him. Ralph Richardson is truly great in this. I love this movie for all its fine touches. I've seen it over and over. The viewer must like movies that really pay attention to how human beings behave, good and bad, and the little fictions they make up to get along in a difficult life."
blockhed | UK | 12/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some reviewers think Greene's film scripts resemble Hitchcock. They don't. See my review of The Third Man. Greene's major concern in everything he wrote was the question of guilt: in other words, original sin. His concern is with right and wrong, and the machinations of the devil in man. Hitchcock is not concerned with right and wrong. He is interested in Freudian motivation, apart from wanting to give the audience a roller-coaster suspense ride. Greene is not interested in Freud in the slightest. He inserts a clinical scalpel into the convoluted morality of human behaviour, and then twists it. There is extreme tension, of course: how will the plot lines be resolved? In fact, the happy ending of this screenplay is a minor cop-out: but it would be unbearable to have Baines shoot himself. But the viewer is still left wondering what the long-term effect of these experiences will be on the totally confused and disillusioned young boy. Somehow, one feels, the cycle of muddle and deceit will be repeated in the future. This film is much, much more subtle and intellectually sophisticated than anything produced by Hitchcock. Which is why it could hardly have made a fraction of the money pulled in by Hitch.
The reviewer who said this film was shot in a mansion in Chelsea, South London, could not be more wrong. The street locations for the film were in the area of Regent's Park, where the London Zoo is still situated, well north of Oxford Street."