The Fallen Idol Movie Review

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Carol Reed took a big chance on this film, his first of three collaborations with Graham Greene. The Fallen Idol is told almost entirely through the eyes of a child, Phillipe (Bobby Henrey, who would make only one other film), and it's a daring decision that gives the film a uniqueness that separates it from what would otherwise be a rather rote drama/thriller.

The story is exceedingly simple: Phillipe is a child of privilege. His ambassador parents are never home, so he spends his days with easygoing butler Baines (Ralph Richardson), whom he adores, and his cruelly strict wife (Sonia Dresdel), who is the cavernous home's housekeeper. Phillipe confides in Baines, who regales him with stories, like the time he "killed a man in Africa." But Phillipe doesn't understand that Baines is just amusing him with make-believe.

Phillipe also doesn't understand that Baines and Mrs. Baines are not a happy couple, nor does he get that Julie (Michèle Morgan) is not Baines' niece but rather his lover. Phillipe is always around as they argue over ending the marriage, but he just doesn't get it. One night, Baines daringly brings Julie home, and steps into a trap Mrs. Baines has left for him. Argument ensues, culminating with Mrs. B falling to her death. Phillipe thinks he saw his best friend push her... and immediately he's torn between trying to protect him and telling the truth, both of which he's sworn to do. The strange twist here is that Baines is not a murderer, that Mrs. Baines really did fall to her death on accident, and Phillipe's lies threaten to hurt more than help.

Phillipe's dilemma creates a core for The Fallen Idol (dig the double meaning), but the film's failing is that this torment doesn't really emerge until the final scene of the film. Reed spends the first two-thirds of the film with Phillipe running about with Baines, making a mess in the house, going to the zoo. Nothing much happens except repeatedly setting the stage for act three, and even that is overwrought with a game of hide and seek and a lengthy police inquest that just doesn't build the suspense it should.

Ultimately, it's Greene's script that is simply writ too small here. Greene, in trying to capture the innocence of youth, fails to realize that audience has gotten way ahead of him, and the film's payoff (all's well, except for Phillipe's innocence), doesn't really cut it. This is not to say that Idol isn't a decent movie and, most importantly, one that is glorious to behold with its low-angle "child's view" camera shots and lavish interiors. But Reed's next film, The Third Man (another Greene collaboration), would up the ante considerably, and Idol merely pales in comparison.

The Criterion DVD includes a new documentary abour Reed.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer :

Starring : , Michèle Morgan, Sonia Dresdel, Bobby Henrey, Denis O'Dea

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The Fallen Idol Rating

" Good "

Rating: NR, 1948

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