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TIME WITHOUT PITY (director: Joseph Losey; screenwriter: Ben Barzman/based on the play Someone Waiting by Emlyn Williams; cinematographer: Freddie Francis; editor: Alan Obistaon; music: Tristram Cary; cast: Michael Redgrave (David Graham), Leo McKern (Robert Stanford), Ann Todd (Honor Stanford), Paul Daneman (Brian Stanford), Peter Cushing (Jeremy Clayton, lawyer), Alec McCowen (Alec Graham), Renee Houston (Mrs. Harker), Lois Maxwell (Vicky Harker), Richard Wordsworth (Maxwell), George Devine (Barnes), Joan Plowright (Agnes Cole); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: John Arnold/Anthony Simmons; Home Vision Entertainment; 1957-UK)
“Its power is in the story’s hard-edged structure.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Warning: spoiler in the first paragraph.

The first time since his blacklist in 1951 that director Joseph Losey (“The Servant”/”King and Country”/”Blind Date”) is able to use his name on the credits. The film was made in England, where Losey reconstructed his career after the exile. It was written by another Hollywood blacklist victim, Ben Barzman. It’s based on the potboiler play Someone Waiting by Emlyn Williams. The filmmaker shifts the emphasis from the thriller on a wrongly convicted man and getting the real killer to a plea against capital punishment, which causes it to lose some of its suspense. But it still has enough steam to sizzle, especially with the melodramatic climax that has the real killer forced to kill the innocent son’s father and thereby face justice for the murder he really didn’t do.

Recovering alcoholic British writer, David Graham (Michael Redgrave), is released from a Montreal sanitarium and flies to London where he has 24-hours to find evidence to save his neglected son Alec (Alec McCowen) from the gallows. Alec was convicted of killing Jenny Coles, a girlfriend he loved who broke up with him, who was found beaten to death in the Stanford family apartment where he was a guest. Robert Stanford (Leo McKern) is the belligerent wealthy sports car manufacturer and the adoptive father of the sensitive Brian (Paul Daneman), who is Alec’s best friend since their university days. Brian’s neurotic mother Honor (Ann Todd) is the vulnerable adoptive mother of Brian who has secretly fallen in love with the gentle but troubled Alec and believes Alec is innocent but is too weak to help. The lad was arrested after he was found drunk and unable to recall events of that fatal evening, as all the circumstantial evidence pointed in his direction.

Jeremy Clayton (Peter Cushing) is the lawyer paid for by Stanford to defend Alec, at his wife’s urging, who has given up all hope and chooses to sit on his hands. The neglectful irresponsible father must fight the clock and the urge to drink, as he earnestly believes his son is not a murder and believes that more so when he questions the dysfunctional Stanfords, Vicky Harper (Lois Maxwell, in her pre-Miss Moneypenny years for the Bond films), Robert’s former secretary and mistress who was given a big promotion after the murder, and Jenny’s chorus dancer sister Agnes (Joan Plowright) who after she gets over her initial anger at the tortured father reveals she didn’t know that her sister was seeing someone else. The writer miraculously stays sober long enough to inspect the crime-scene apartment for clues, break down the circumstantial evidence case put forth during the trial, become introspective, reconcile with his disappointed and disapproving son and prove that he’s now willing to do anything to make up to his son for being a bad father.

It’s hysterical and Losey takes himself far too seriously, but if conviction can kill–this story is a killer. Its power is in the story’s hard-edged structure, that Losey gored by revealing the killer before even the opening credits were presented. But he makes up for that by his appealing humanitarian message that is resolutely against capital punishment, and in this case he proves that such punishment is indeed wrong-headed.

Freddie Francis’ gorgeous photography is filled with winsome baroque compositions and stunning lighting schemes.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”