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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Outcast Of The Islands (1951)

Set on an unnamed island in the northern Indian ocean, when a scandal causes a man (Trevor Howard) filled with moral rot to be shunned, he's taken by a benefactor (Ralph Richardson) to a hidden village on another island. But his lust for a native beauty (Kerima) not only destroys whatever decency was left in him but his treachery reaches beyond his own ken. Based on the novel by Joseph Conrad, this is a superior piece of film making. Watching it you feel the exhilaration that you get when you know you're watching a great film. From 1947 to 1951, director Carol Reed had an incredible run of first rate films: ODD MAN OUT, THE THIRD MAN, FALLEN IDOL and this jewel. The film subtly examines the colonial mindset of the white man and his questionable sense of superiority (a native asks, "Does the white man think he knows what's best for us") but like Conrad's LORD JIM, Howard's Peter Willems is a man who must redeem himself but unlike that Conrad novel, the results are different. Is there anyone who still doubts that Trevor Howard is one of the great English actors? He may not have the Shakespearean pedigree of an Olivier, Gielgud or Richardson but anyone who can give a performance like this one or in SONS AND LOVERS, HEART OF THE MATTER or ROOTS OF HEAVEN is an actor to be reckoned with. The impeccable supporting cast includes Wendy Hiller (who displays a lifetime of invisibility in minimal screen time), Robert Morley, Wilfrid Hyde White and George Coulouris.

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