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The Fallen Idol (The Criterion Collection)


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Editorial Reviews

The Fallen Idol was the first of three collaborations between director Carol Reed and writer Graham Greene, who would later team up on the legendary The Third Man, and is a small masterpiece itself. An elegant, thrilling balancing act of suspense and farce, this tale of the fraught relationship between a boy and his beloved butler, who the child eventually believes might be guilty of murder, is a visually and verbally dazzling knockout, with enough tricks up its sleeve to stand with the best of early Hitchcock.

Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • "A Sense of Carol Reed," a 2006 documentary, featuring interviews with director Carol Reed's friends and collaborators
  • Illustrated Reed filmography
  • Original press book
  • Booklet including new essays by Geoffrey O'Brien, David Lodge, and Nicholas Wapshott, as well as "The Basement Room," the Graham Greene short story on which the film is based

Product Details

  • Actors: Ralph Richardson, Michèle Morgan, Sonia Dresdel, Bobby Henrey, Denis O'Dea
  • Directors: Andy Kelleher, Carol Reed
  • Writers: Graham Greene, Lesley Storm, William Templeton
  • Producers: Andy Kelleher, Carol Reed, Alexander Korda
  • Format: Black & White, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: November 7, 2006
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000HT3QBE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,467 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Fallen Idol (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on March 8, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
Carol Reed was perhaps even more famous in his day for coaxing superb performances out of children than Steven Spielberg is today... and much of it is due to the astonishing performance in this marvelous film by Bobby Henrey as Phillipe, the son of the French Ambassador to the UK. Henrey delivers what must be one of the greatest child's performances ever on screen (right up there with little Victoire Thivisol in PONETTE). Phile idolizes the butler at the embassy, the sweet but very ordinary Baines (Ralph Richardson), and when his hero becomes accused of murder in the death of his wife young Phile becomes wrapped up in the police investigation. The film does a superb job switching back and forth from a child's to an adult's register--we see things both from Phile's limited child's point of view (and understand his inability to put things together given his naievete), and we also see from an adult perspective how his attempts to help his idol only make things worse and worse. The film is beautifully shot--the embassy itself is something of a marble and tile wonder--and Henrey's frantic need for attention and his jumpy manner (and endearing lisp: "He PUTHED her...") make him seem as real a small child as you can imagine.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
This is a wonderful movie, superbly written. It has such a subtle way about the frustration of two incompatible spouses, the last-ditch attempt of one to change his life for the better, and his relationship with a young boy in his charge who understands nothing and looks up to him. Ralph Richardson is truly great in this. I love this movie for all its fine touches. I've seen it over and over. The viewer must like movies that really pay attention to how human beings behave, good and bad, and the little fictions they make up to get along in a difficult life.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By blockhed on December 12, 2006
Format: DVD
Some reviewers think Greene's film scripts resemble Hitchcock. They don't. See my review of The Third Man. Greene's major concern in everything he wrote was the question of guilt: in other words, original sin. His concern is with right and wrong, and the machinations of the devil in man. Hitchcock is not concerned with right and wrong. He is interested in Freudian motivation, apart from wanting to give the audience a roller-coaster suspense ride. Greene is not interested in Freud in the slightest. He inserts a clinical scalpel into the convoluted morality of human behaviour, and then twists it. There is extreme tension, of course: how will the plot lines be resolved? In fact, the happy ending of this screenplay is a minor cop-out: but it would be unbearable to have Baines shoot himself. But the viewer is still left wondering what the long-term effect of these experiences will be on the totally confused and disillusioned young boy. Somehow, one feels, the cycle of muddle and deceit will be repeated in the future. This film is much, much more subtle and intellectually sophisticated than anything produced by Hitchcock. Which is why it could hardly have made a fraction of the money pulled in by Hitch.

The reviewer who said this film was shot in a mansion in Chelsea, South London, could not be more wrong. The street locations for the film were in the area of Regent's Park, where the London Zoo is still situated, well north of Oxford Street.
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Format: DVD
I haven't seen "The Fallen Idol" in probably twenty years. While regarded as a masterpiece, my recollections largely involved an annoying child. So with Criterion's release, I was eager to revisit this work with adult eyes. I can't honestly say that I still didn't find that child somewhat annoying--because he was. But his need for love and attention are critical to "The Fallen Idol," for it is his actions and emotional state that propel the film.

The story unfolds from the viewpoint of Phillipe, the child of a French ambassador. Left largely to his own devices within the embassy, Phillipe has formed a close bond with Mr. Baines, the family butler. He is enchanted by Mr. Baines' stories, as well as spoiled and indulged by the kind hearted man. Baines' wife plays the role of the disciplinarian, so the pair often evade her more stern ways. The film establishes all of the primary relationships effectively, and then moves into the more conventional plot as we discover Baines is having an affair with an embassy secretary.

The striking thing about "The Fallen Idol" is that the narrative is shown completely through Phillipe's eyes. We can see only as much as he is privy to. So we get bits and pieces of the adult story interwoven with the more typical aspects of being a child. Of course, what we glimpse makes more sense to us than to the 8-year-old. We see a marriage on the brink of destruction, we see a torrid affair, we see the emotional confrontations, and we see tragedy strike. And we understand what is happening--but we're not off the hook. We are linked to Phillipe, who is well meaning yet confused. As he tries to do what is right for Mr. Baines--he tells lies he shouldn't, keeps secrets he shouldn't, and then tries to tell the truth when it might be detrimental.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By James L. on July 1, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Ralph Richardson stars as Baines, butler to an ambassador, who is having an affair with an embassy employee. The ambassador's young son Phillipe, played by Bobby Henrey, idolizes the butler. When his wife accidentally falls to her death following an argument with him, Richardson finds himself the only suspect in her murder. Henrey, believing Richardson to be guilty but wanting to protect him, lies to the police to help out. But lies have gotten Richardson into this mess, and more lies only make it worse. The film is quite suspenseful as it goes on, and the scene with the paper airplane is justifiably well remembered for the way it ups the tension. Richardson, as usual, is excellent, as is young Henrey and Sonia Dresdel as the shrew wife. The Fallen Idol grows on you with each passing frame and lie. It's another great film from 1940's England.
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