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United Kingdom 1957
Directed by
Joseph Losey
85 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Time Without Pity

Losey’s first film under his own name after his HUAC blacklisting in 1951 is based on a play, Someone Waiting, by Emlyn Williams, and is scripted by another Hollywood blacklist casualty, Ben Barzman.  Self-exiled to England, Losey took to the characteristically creepy 50s drabness of once mighty Albion with a vengeance and the film has a cold and friendless look that eminently suits its mood of desperation.

Michael Redgrave plays an alcoholic father trying to save his neurotic son (Alec McCowen) from the gallows with only a few hours left in which to do so. Losey keeps to a theatrical sensibility but too much so and in all respects, the result is strident, with Leo McKern, as the boorish Northern parvenu (who in the opening scene we see committing the murder against a backdrop of Goya prints) bellowing and with his AWOL orbs, staring we know not at what, Redgrave sweating and looking like he has not washed for the duration, McCowen and Ann Todd caught in some kind of Oedipal displacement, Lois Maxwell (who would achieve fame as Miss Moneypenny in the Bond films), as the industrialist’s superciliously haughty mistress who lives with her drunken cow of a mother,and Joan Plowright as a showgirl in an low rent vaudeville show.

Freddie Francis’s starkly contrastive black and white photography is comfortless in exposing the horror of it all whilst Tristram Cary’s music clangs away in the background. If the intention was to have found a form ugly enough to match the subject matter, which perhaps  sense in the original play was the wrong-headedness of capital punishment but here is a strident caricature of capitalist greed, then Losey is successful but the result, is hardly something one can take much pleasure in watching.

FYI:  Bertrand Tavernier wrote glowingly about this film in the French film journal, Positif, in July 1960.

DVD Extras: None

Available from: Shock Entertainment




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