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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Time Without Pity
Time Without Pity
Home Vision Entertainment // Unrated // March 30, 2004
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted March 29, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

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 job.

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 DVD:


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 better soundtracks.


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 Extras:

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 Loe McKern.

Final Thoughts:

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.

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