Movie Critique - Time Without Pity

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: A story so chilling I couldn’t sleep that night thinking of the ending, to what lengths a person can go to cover his tracks; and on the flip side to what lengths one can go to save someone they love.

Time Without Pity is a 1957 British film noir directed by Joseph Losey and produced by John Arnold and Anthony Simmons. The lead cast included Michael Redgrave, Ann Todd, Peter Cushing and Leo McKern. 

Director Losey had been blacklisted in America and so he began filming in England. This is his second film and first under his own name after moving to England. Incidentally he has a fellow blacklisted writer Ben Barzman write the screenplay for the film adapted from the 1953 play Someone Waiting by British writer Emlyn Williams. Note that Emlyn is not credited in the film. Also we get to see several distinguished British actors in the film. 

Alec Graham (portrayed by Alec McCowan) is on death row and days from being hung for the murder of his girlfriend Jenny Cole. However David Graham (portrayed by Michael Redgrave), Alec's father, does not believe that Alec is a murderer. But with his alcoholism in between them, Alec doesn’t want to do anything with his father. Seeking desperate measures, David investigates the case, identifying potential suspects, loopholes and eventually find evidence that would set his son free. And the time is running out.

Alec McCowan portrayal of a dejected and without hope Alec Graham is spot-on. His bitterness towards his alcoholic dad makes you feel it as well, you almost want to knock the head of David Graham for being so weak and always giving to his craving of drinking.

Redgrave's David Graham is pathetic in every way and yet stubborn to fail his son, struggles to be there for him at least this one time. Redgrave gives a very good impression of a recovering alcoholic with all the symptoms one can see - shaking of hands; struggling to keep away from the temptation of drinking; broken pieces of memory.

Peter Cushing has a small, yet, prominent role as Jeremy Clayton, the helpless young lawyer of Alec Graham, in the film. This is the last film before Cushing attains his fame as Frankenstein in Hammer's 1957 The Curse of Frankenstein.

The film opens with a long tone in the background and the murder being committed without the credits yet rolling. Since I was watching this movie in the night that day, the long tone in the background really shook me. The credits then roll by with a backdrop of a painting of animals fighting and a lamp that had been turned on the side on floor and moving causing a light and shadow effect. 

The plot-line is such a way that the viewers already know who the real killer was and David Graham and Jeremy Clayton race against time to find evidence against the real killer. A plot-line that had been successfully used by the famous TV show, Columbo, which debuted 11 years after this film was released.

In one scene the director has David and Brian Stanford (portrayed by Paul Daneman) facing each other in the elevator that has glass walls. And the expressions on both actors reflected infinite times is a clear nod to the various secrets hidden by one, various emotions hidden by the other.

A story so chilling I couldn’t sleep that night thinking of the ending, to what lengths a person can go to cover his tracks; and on the flip side to what lengths one can go to save someone they love. A murder mystery that delves into the darker shades of human mind and the depravity that they carry even though they look ever so normal.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Dame Joan Plowright portrays the role of Agnes Cole, the victim's sister and a feisty chorus girl. This is her theatrical debut.

b. We can see Lois Maxwell, our very own Miss Moneypenny in the first 14 James Bond films, in this movie as Vickie Harker, a girl who has no qualms; a smart mouth and even more feral femme fetale. Although not acknowledged as one.

c. The prison used in the film is a real prison, HMP Wandsworth in southwest London, the largest prison in UK.

d. The film inspired Bertrand Tavernier for his 1974 film The Clockmaker of St. Paul.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. The film crew is reflected in the door of Clayton's car.

b. The symbol for Stanford cars is very similar to a Mercedes-Benz symbol, except this has a couple of extra circles on it.

c. The ring on Stanford's hand keeps appearing and disappearing as the frames change while he driving his race car.


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