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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Fallen Idol (1948)


Starring: Ralph Richardson, Bobby Henrey, Michèle Morgan, Denis O'Dea and Jack Hawkins
Distributor: StudioCanal
Certificate: PG
Release Date: 16 November 2015

Phillipe lives with his father, at the embassy. With his father busy and his mother in hospital, the young boy is looked after by the kindly butler Baines. When Baines's wife accidentally falls to her death, following an argument, Phillipe is convinced that Baines has murdered her. In his effort to save his friend his lies just push Baines closer to arrest...

The Fallen Idol (B&W. 1948. 1 hr, 31 min, 55 sec) is a murder mystery, directed by Carol Reed and written by Graham Greene. The pair would collaborate twice more with The Third Man (1949) and Our Man in Havana (1959). The film is based on a short story by Greene, but for the sake of the film the emphasis was changed from the lies protecting a murderer to lies which push an innocent man closer to the gallows.

The film stared Ralph Richardson as Baines, the child’s confident, who regales him with improbable stories of his time in Africa. The lies come easy as they are only meant to entertain Phillipe (Robert Henrey), but Baines is hiding a real secret of his own as he is having an affair with Julie (Michèle Morgan). It is this growing tension between Mr and Mrs Baines that leads to her accidental and untimely death.

Although there is location work around Belgravia and London Zoo, the film has a very intimate feel, almost like it was an adapted stage play. The story is predominantly told from Phillipe’s point of view as he tries to navigate the landscape of lies which the adults have created. His adoration of Baines makes him follow the butler when he goes to see his niece, who is, in fact, Julie. When Mrs Baines announces that she will be away for the weekend Baines, Julie and Phillipe spend the afternoon together only to be confronted by Mr Baines.

The audio track is mono, with the option for English subtitles. The picture has been fully restored. Given the age of the film it comes with some very reasonable extras. It opens with An Interview with Robert Henrey (17 min, 40 sec) who reminisces about his time on the film, considering the gap of years he had a remarkable memory. Guy Hamilton Remembers The Fallen Idol (15 min, 28 sec) Hamilton worked as assistant director on the movie and shares his memories from the technical side of making the film.

Locations Featurette with Richard Dacre (12 min, 27 sec) Dacre is a film historian and he takes us on an oddly interesting tour of Belgravia, where the film was shot. Interview with Film Historian Charles Drazin (20 min, 40 sec), he is a writer and film historian, who shares his own thoughts on the film. There is also an Interview with Richard Ayoade (18 min, 02 sec) a writer and director in his own right, but is also better known as a comic actor. He also shares his insight into the film. Although it might seem that there are a lot of people pontificating about the film, all with effusive praise, the various interviews are sufficiently different to warrant watching them all.

Lastly we have the Restoration Comparison (1 min, 03 sec) is a short piece, with no narration, but it does show the before and after effects of both cleaning the print and the removal of scratches from two short scenes.

The film still works well, probably given the talent involved it till a film worth watching.


Charles Packer

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