"Time Without Pity" marked the first time since 1951 that Joseph Losey's name would appear as director on a film after using various pseudonyms for his British films, while the Hollywood Blacklist continued to ruin careers and lives in America.
Adapted from the Emlyn Williams mystery play, "Someone Waiting," by blacklisted writer Ben Barzman (who also penned the film version of "Christ In Concrete"), several key changes were made by the filmmakers that irritated British critics during the film's original release: the killer's identity is revealed at the onset, and the real suspense lies in the father's attempt to prove his son's innocence, while the filmmakers pitch overt criticisms against the death penalty. Those changes, however, give the story and brutalized characters deeper purpose, and render the real killer's behaviour throughout the film all the more repulsive.
Subsequently lauded by the French, "Time" bolstered Losey's personal confidence as a filmmaker, and his direction of such a stellar cast - particularly a disintegrating Redgrave, and bullish Leo McKern - remain the film's key attractions. (Film fans will also note a stunningly youthful Lois Maxwell in her pre-Miss Moneypenny years, Peter Cushing as a sympathetic defense barrister, and a young Paul Daneman as the doomed son.)
It's about time Losey's British work gets a dignified release on home video, and HVE's transfer is taken from a crisp print, lovingly showcasing Fredrick (Freddie) Francis' gorgeous cinematography, with some genuinely baroque compositions and striking lighting schemes.
As a special bonus, the disc also includes Losey's first film, "Pete Roleum and His Cousins." Having supervised the production of educational montage films prior to 1938, he gathered Helen Van Dongen (later to edit Robert Flaherty's classic "Louisiana Story"), co-writer Kenneth White, and composers Hanns Eisler & Oscar Levant, and fashioned a propaganda piece for the petroleum industry, enacted via fascinating rubber puppets animated by Charles Bowers. Taking a year to complete, the film was shown at the 1939 World's Fair, and originally employed a set of rear speakers meant to imitate a "heckler" that conversed with the film's characters. The archived film, shot in Technicolor and lacking any formal titles, is in surprisingly good shape, and contains both the recorded narration by Hiram Sherman, and the echoey "heckler" track.
Joseph Losey's "La Truite" ("The Trout") is also available from HVE.
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan