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Fallen Idol, The
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by Elaine Perrone

"Golden Idol."
5 stars

Once a staple on late-night public television, The Fallen Idol, Graham Greene’s sublime adaptation of his novel as interpreted by director Sir Carol Reed, has unjustly taken a back seat to their (also sublime) collaboration one year later on The Third Man. Happily, now that The Fallen Idol has been re-released on a glorious new 35mm print, with the stamps of Rialto Pictures and Janus affixed, one can dare to hope that a Criterion treatment might not be far behind.

Even so, for anyone who has the privilege to enjoy viewing The Fallen Idol as I did – projected in breathtaking black-and-white on the big screen, in the company of an appreciative audience – this is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to see magnificent post-war filmmaking at its finest. (Too, for those people who might only have seen the film in its expurgated version, one that employed cuts demanded at the time by prudish U.S. censors, this is finally the chance to see Rialto’s full restoration of the work as realized by Reed and Greene in 1948.)

The screen adaptation is based upon Greene’s short story, “The Basement Room,” a work the author himself deemed “unfilmable,” a piece involving “a murder committed by the most sympathetic character and an unhappy ending which would certainly have imperiled the GBP250,000 that films nowadays cost.” In the end, in partnership, Greene and Reed crafted a tantalizing psychological study of marital discord and infidelity, murderous intent, guilt, and the incomprehension of a child.

At the heart of The Fallen Idol is Ralph Richardson’s sterling performance as the butler Baines, the “idol” of the title to young Phil (non-professional Bobby Henrey), his surrogate to the boy’s absent parents. Unhappily married to the shrewish Mrs. Baines (Sonia Dresdel) and helplessly in love with a much younger French woman, Julie (Michèle Morgan), Baines becomes Phil’s confidante and protector from his wife’s animosity toward the child, telling the boy, heartbreakingly, “We’ve got to be very careful, Phil, because we make one another.” Considering Baines to be his best friend, and treated by the older man as his equal, Phil becomes the unintentional vessel for badly kept secrets and the catalyst that brings catastrophe raining down on all of them.

Filmed in London, in and around Belgrave Square and the London Zoo, The Fallen Idol is a visually stunning collaboration of Reed’s vision as interpreted through the lens of cinematographer Georges Périnal, who was said to have been vexed by Reed’s demands for what the cameraman considered to be impossible shots.

Featuring a stellar supporting cast – Jack Hawkins and Bernard Lee as tenacious police detectives, and Dora Bryan as Rose, a motherly tart with a heart of gold (“Hullo, dearie, where d’you live? I think I know your father.”) – The Fallen Idol is infused with wit, charm, and compassion to offset the harsher reality of moral ambiguity in human relationships that is prevalent in this and other of Greene’s works (The Third Man and The End of the Affair among them).

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14277&reviewer=376
originally posted: 03/19/06 15:47:52
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User Comments

7/31/11 David Rayner Superb! One of the very best films ever made. 5 stars
6/05/09 brian Sir Carol Reed's difficulties with the child actor were huge, and it shows. 3 stars
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Directed by
  Carol Reed

Written by
  Graham Greene

  Ralph Richardson
  Michèle Morgan
  Sonia Dresdel
  Bobby Henrey
  Denis O'Dea
  Jack Hawkins

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