Criterion Corner: The Fallen Idol

fallen idol

Hey, everyone. Brian Matthew Kim here for another installment of Criterion Corner. Last week I highlighted my favorite Criterion thus far (Paris, Texas), so this week I want to focus on a movie that I did not enjoy: Carol Reed’s 1948 thriller (?), The Fallen Idol.

What I don’t like about it: SO. MANY. WHITE. PEOPLE. As in, the entire cast is white. Now, I know this was 1948, but those “it was a product of its time” arguments are bullshit. And I guess people of color are technically included, however only through the stories of the white man (Mr. Baines, the idol). Baines concocts some seriously fucked-up stories for the young boy, Philippe, who admires him so much. Stories such as: single-handedly quelling an African uprising, shooting (and killing) a native African, and shooting lions. I’m surprised Mr. Baines isn’t wearing a safari hat and a monocle –- he’s practically the face of imperialism. And it would be cool if maybe this were some metaphor about imperialism and how white men have overstepped their boundaries, but spoiler alert: the white guy goes free at the end. Also, I thought the actor who played Philippe (Bobby Henrey) was super annoying and frustrating.

Least favorite scene: Near the middle of the movie, Mr. Baines and his wife get into an argument. Philippe spies on the two of them, running from one vantage point to another. Before he can reach his new spot, Mrs. Baines has fallen to her death. Did Mr. Baines kill her in cold blood? Was it in an accident? This scenario could create a lot of suspense, but Reed instead shows you how Mrs. Baines dies. For a movie that so closely follows Philippe, it’s weird that we get an omniscient, 3rd-person perspective at this moment. I feel like it undermines a lot of tension and suspense that could otherwise develop in the latter half of the movie.

Fun fact: Assistant Director Guy Hamilton once said Bobby Henrey “couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag” and had “the attention span of a demented flea.”

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