Film noir is usually thought of as an American phenomenon. These
dark, atmospheric films involving crime and mayhem were almost exclusively
made in Hollywood, but there are some exceptions. One such film is
Joseph Losey's Time Without Pity. Made in England by an American
director who had been blacklisted in the US, this dark and frantic movie
involves a man obsessed with finding out who murdered a young girl.
A murder that is about to send his son to the gallows.
Alec Graham (Alec McCowen) has 24 hours to live. He was convicted
of murdering his girlfriend and now faces execution. When his father,
David Graham (Michael Redgrave) unexpectedly turns up, Alec isn't exactly
happy. David wasn't at the trial, having been locked up in a sanitarium
because of his alcoholism. Now he is free, and wants to help prove
his son's innocence.
Alec isn't so sure he wants his father's help. His father had
never been there for him in the past, and what could his drunkard father
do for him now? The hope that his father would raise in him is just
too painful, so Alec sends him away. But his father won't give up
so easily. Reading the transcript of the trial, he tracks down people
who testified, and some who didn't. He finds some interesting things
out, but nothing concrete, nothing that he can use to even delay the execution.
He meets his son's best friend and his family, who seem to be tied up in
the murder somehow. The body was found in their home, and everyone
seems to be hiding something, but no one wants to talk. With time
ticking away, David has to figure out what happened without anyone's help.
One thing about this film is that is that it isn't a murder mystery.
You see the murder, and the murderer, at the beginning. You know
the whole time when David is getting close and when he's following the
wrong lead. This actually ratchets up the tension quite a bit, and
that is one thing this movie has in spades. You can almost feel the
hours pressing on Graham as he tries to unravel the mystery. As his
time quickly slips away, he gets more and more frantic. Driven by
an overwhelming feeling of guilt and a father's love for his son, Graham
nearly breaks down. As his hands start shaking and the pressure builds,
you can see that he yearns for a drink, but that's the one thing he can't
have. He has to have a clear mind to track down the killer.
Joseph Losey really did a great job building the tension in this film.
There were several aspects that really made it more suspenseful.
The time element is skillfully integrated into the film. There are
clocks showing the time in many scenes, including one segment where a lady
has filled her house with time pieces. Graham often looks at
his watch, but the camera never shows what he sees, it doesn't have to.
Alcohol was also very prevalent. Everyone is constantly offering
David a drink. A seemingly friendly gesture, but since he is an alcoholic
it represents a dangerous temptation.
Michael Redgrave did a fantastic job. The highlight of the movie
was his wonderful portrayal of a man at the end of his rope. His
body language and facial expression said more about the charecters frustration
and worry than the dialog did. A lesser actor could have made the
film flat and lifeless, but Redgrave was able to illustrate the crushing
tension that his character was under without overacting. A superb
I'd also like to add a word about the musical score by Tristram Cary.
He did a good job, setting the tome and emotion of scenes. The music
really boosts the tension without being overbearing and intrusive.
It augments the movie just as a fine soundtrack should.
Lastly, for all you fellow car buffs, there are some great shots
of a Mercedes 300SL gullwing coupe near the end of this movie. There
are shots of it up close and a scene with it zipping around a race track.
It's a pretty rare car, with around 1400 of them made over a three year
period, and I can't think of any other film that features one.
The two channel mono sound was thin, the highs and lows were missing,
and the 's' sounds in the dialog are slurred. There was a hiss in
the background throughout the movie, which is understandable considering
the age of the film, but still annoying. Not one of Home Vision's
The black and white full frame video was a little grainy and a bit on
the soft side. There was a good amount of detail, though some features
were lost in shadows and in dark areas. Some digital artifacts
are present, most noticeable in the cross hatched wallpaper in the Stanford's
house which seem to shimmer and dance when the camera moves. While not
the best print ever, it is still an acceptible DVD.
The most interesting extra on this disc is Pete Roleum and His Cousins,
a 16 minute short that was Joseph Losey's first directorial effort.
This featurette was animated by Charlie Bowers, and was a promotional short
done for the Petroleum industry and shown at the 1939 World's Fair.
It is a look at petroleum use in the past and present, with anthropomorphic
oil drops used to illustrate all the uses of petroleum products.
Though a little on the dry side, the dancing oil drops made the film decidedly
unusual. (If you enjoyed the animation in this short, but sure to
check out the 2-disc set containing all of Bowers' existing
work: Charlie Bowers. Read my review of that set here.)
There are also filmographies of Joseph Losey, Micheal Redgrave, and
Time Without Pity is a film worth watching. Michael Redgrave
does a marvelous job as the frantic father, and Joseph Losey's direction
filled the film with tension and suspense. The plot was engrossing,
with the time element insuring that the movie had a fast pace. Film
noir buffs should be sure to check out this interesting film. A higher
than average recommendation.