Time Without Pity - 1957
Director(s): Joseph Losey
Writer(s): Ben Barzman
Cinematography by: Freddie Francis
Editor(s): Alan Osbiston
Cast: Michael Redgrave, Ann Todd, Leo McKern, Peter Cushing, Alec McCowen and Renee Houston
Last week I tackled Queer Cinema in honor of Pride month, and I had a lot of fun focusing on a subsection of cinema, so this week we are jumping across the pond and exploring three wonderful movies made inside the British system. Starting with Time Without Pity, a film that marks the return, at least under his name, of blacklisted American director Joseph Losey. After being exiled from Hollywood, Losey found a home in England and used this venue to push forward movies with a message that rally against the system, in this case, capital murder. Let’s talk about it.
The story follows David Graham (Redgrave), a recovering alcoholic returning to England on a mission to save his son from being executed by the government. His son, Alec (Graham), has been wrongfully accused of murdering his girlfriend and is going to be hung within the next 24 hours. Alec was involved with a wealthy family named Stanford, and the patriarch of the family, Robert (McKern), is the killer and is trying to derail David's investigation in the hopes of getting away with the murder. David has to fight against the ticking time clock of his son's pending execution, his alcoholism, and the roadblocks put in place by Robert - all concluding in a final desperate attempt to free his son.
Ben Barzman's screenplay is a grade A Hollywood “B-movie”, in all its glory. The dialogue and story structure are what I love about a good B-movie, especially one that lives within the noir genre. While I like the anti-capital murder message, the film does go out of its way to show that he is an innocent man; just so the audience is in favor of him not being executed, so the message does get muddled a bit. Since it comes across being anti-capital murder as long as it is an innocent person. The ending is where the film reeled me in, as the final sequence has more pathos and redemption for the protagonist than I expected, taking me completely by surprise. It also delivers a fantastic character arch for David, an irredeemable character in the eyes of his son, and it leaves the conclusion up to the audience.
Time Without Pity is not a perfect film, none are, with some weird choices in the score, spotty acting by some of the cast members, and the editing at times is a bit choppy - it can be a deterrent for some audience members to see the beauty in this noir classic. The exploration of specific themes, particularly the search for redemption at all cost by David in the eyes of his son being the best, carries the film above these flaws. Losey's touch behind the camera delivers multiple eye caching sequences, and Redgrave is fantastic as the struggling alcoholic doing anything he can to save his son, making this a worthwhile noir to add to your viewing schedule.
Time Without Pity is Glass Half Full.
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