Film - The Fallen Idol

Fallen idol

Studiocanal re-releases a newly restored version of the classic British thriller, The Fallen Idol (1948) on DVD and Blu-Ray today.  Chris Smith watched the film for us...

Phillipe (Bobby Henrey) adores his father's butler, Mr Baines (Ralph Richardson). Enthralling Phillipe with his tales of Africa, one afternoon the boy follows Baines to a cafe only to find him with Julie, a young beautiful woman who isn't Mrs Baines. Despite it being explained that Julie is Mr Baines' niece, Phillipe finds himself being questioned by the suspicious and increasingly fraught Mrs Baines. After a particularly terse argument between the Baines, Phillipe discovers Mrs Baines a lying dead at the foot of the stairs. As the police investigate, young Phillipe becomes desperate to protect his idol but his attempts to do so rapidly make things worse.

Widely regarded as a gem of post-war British cinema, Fallen Idol is based on Graham Greene's "The Basement Room" and winner of a BAFTA Best British film award. While Bobby Henrey was reportedly difficult to work with, director Carol Reed works wonders here to tell a complex story from Phillipe's perspective. Upward Camera angles give the boy's point of view - and shows just how large Baines looms in Phillipe's eyes. With his father mostly absent from the film, Baines' relationship with Phillipe is paternal than one of a servant. Even when it becomes clear to the audience that perhaps Baines' tales of Africa are taller than they should be, they continue to enrapture Phillipe. Every smile and every wide-eyed moment is captured perfectly.

However, as wonderful as Reed's direction is and as charming as Baines and Phillipe interactions may be, the film suffers from slow pacing. In truth, Henrey and his portrayal of a boy witnessing the fall of his idol, carries the film and it's difficult to envision the film being as cherished as it is without this.

The Fallen Idol is a film about a young boy being forced into the world of adults and all of their mess. It's poignantly told and, even with its pacing issues and occasional, questionable dialogue, is a masterwork of British cinema.

Image - Studiocanal