Thursday, January 25, 2007

"The Fallen Idol"

At Spot-on, I've got a review of the 1948 film The Fallen Idol and the story on which it's based. The review opens:
Last year the Criterion Collection released the long-awaited DVD of The Fallen Idol, the 1948 film directed by Carol Reed and adapted for the screen in collaboration with Graham Greene from his story, “The Basement Room.” It may be my favorite of all the DVDs released in 2006.

Greene’s original story, available online as well as in a Penguin edition with The Third Man, is a fine work by this master writer, and it is a joy to see a great author turn a very good story into an even better film. There are several significant changes from the original story to the film version, and they are all to the good. One example: there are no animals in this story about the loss – or myth – of innocence, yet for the film the child Philip has a beloved pet snake. No Eden, it seems, can do without one.
Read the entire review.

There are a few additional items of note that did not make it into the review:
  • There are a few lines in the story about the butler's time in the tropics that didn't make it into the film; yet, as Spot-on editor Chris Nolan suggested, with what we know about Graham Greene's biography and other works, there is probably a lot more to say on the theme of tropical decay and "corruption" (the butler's word).
  • Although I didn't mention it in the review, there is a thin vein of farce that winds through the film. It's a nice touch, understated and it never detracts from the otherwise serious drama.
  • "Philip," the child in the film, was played by Bobby Henrey. An article in the Guardian suggests he delivered "one of its greatest performances" in the history of British cinema. That's a little too generous in my view, but read the article after you see the film to learn more about Henrey's very brief career in film.
  • An interesting bit of trivia: Despite his character's hatred of Mrs. Baines, Bobby Henrey's favorite person on set was actually actress Sonia Dresdel.
--Marshal Zeringue