Plot: What’s it about?
Phillipe (Bobby Henrey) is the son of an important man, a foreign ambassador to England. As such, his father spends a lot of time away from home, so he isn’t around his son that often. Phillipe’s mother isn’t around either and hasn’t been for some time, so his parents don’t do much actual parenting. That is left to Baines (Ralph Richardson), the family’s butler and while that might sound a little unusual, Baines and Phillipe are good friends and the two share an excellent relationship. As time passes, Baines becomes more of a father figure to Phillipe than his own father. So when Phillipe sneaks out of his room to follow Baines, who then meets with a beautiful young woman, the young man doesn’t know what to think. Baines is a married man, but he first tells the child the women is his niece, then asks him to keep the incident to himself. When Mrs. Baines leaves for the weekend, the young woman comes in and stays with Baines. Phillipe has a ball with Baines and the woman, having fun and once again, the young boy is happy. But Mrs. Baines never really left, so when she returns home and finds the other woman, conflicts arise. She is killed in an accidental fall, but Phillipe only sees the aftermath, not what caused her death. Now Phillipe is convinced that a murder has taken place, but will he ever be able to find out the truth about Baines?
The Criterion Collection has added a top notch crime thriller to their ranks, as Carol Reed’s The Fallen Idol is now available. The movie falls in line with other crime cinema as far as basic premise, but Reed’s approach makes the film stand out from the start. Instead of being told from the perspective of a hard boiled detective or an innocent man on the run, The Fallen Idol is viewed from the perspective of a child. We see a lot of the movie through those eyes, but don’t be mistaken, this is no children’s film. While we do have the child’s perspective, the movie offers a wider scope than just that, though its inclusion does give the film a unique texture. The approach is effective too, especially in the dynamics of the relationship between the child and the accused, especially since we have more information than the child’s character. That extra information ensures that Reed isn’t after shocks or twists, but tension and development. And the tension is thick, building over the course of the film and never easing up, even for a moment. The performances are superb here, in specific the child and the butler, who make us believe there is a true bond involved. So the story, characters, and performances make us care what happens and not just because of melodrama or emotional manipulation. The Fallen Idol is a terrific movie and without question, a great addition to The Criterion Collection.
Video: How does it look?
The Fallen Idol is presented in full frame, as intended. This is an amazing visual transfer and once again, Criterion has given fans reason to rejoice. The bulk of grain, debris, and damage has been removed from the source print, leaving behind a very sharp and clean image to soak up. As if that isn’t enough, the contrast is also dead on in this transfer, with no problems in the least. I found no evidence of detail loss and the black levels seem well balanced at all times. Thanks to Criterion and their extensive restoration, we can all have a fantastic version of this classic to own and cherish.
Audio: How does it sound?
Some restoration work was also done on the audio and while I am unsure how much, I do know that this track sounds very good. The original mono track was used for this disc and while mono is limited in range, this material doesn’t need much in terms of audio power or impact. The music sounds clear and free from distortion, which is impressive for a movie of this age (1948). No traces of problems with dialogue either, as the vocals sound natural and very crisp at all times. This disc also includes optional English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The main supplement here is A Sense of Carol Reed, a newly created featurette that runs just under half an hour. The piece features interviews that explore Reed’s work, with a special focus on some of the director’s better known productions. This disc also includes a very cool illustrated filmography for Reed, as well as the film’s original pressbook.