Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Fallen Idol

(UK, 1948)

Here’s a crackerjack little thriller of the understated kind the Brits do so well. Ralph Richardson is Baines, the butler at the London embassy of an un-named French colonial country. He has a terrible wife who he wants to leave, because he is in love with one of the secretaries there. One night there is an argument at the top of the stairs, and she falls to her death.

Also at the embassy is young Phile (Philippe, but pronounced Phil), the son of the ambassador. He’s innocent, imaginative, and struggling with the concepts of truth and lies, and when a lie is permissible. He adores Baines, who is the only one who has any time for him. He’s also a snoop, like most children. He sees the argument, and then he hears the wife fall, and sees her body. We know what Phile doesn’t know, which is that Baines did not push her. She fell a moment later, while trying to get into the bedroom where Baines and his lover had been, and happened to hit where it looks like she fell down the stairs. But Phile believes Baines killed her, and is determined to lie to protect him. Meanwhile, Baines and his lover have also lied, to avoid bringing her into it all. Soon the lies start to contradict each other, stories keep changing, forensic evidence is pointing to murder. Jack Hawkins is a detective who soon is weaving a web of evidence that will trap Baines, who is hardly any better at lying than Phile is.

Won’t tell you the ending, but I was very satisfied with it. Other than the dramatic fight, there isn’t a lot of action, but it’s great how the tension can mount over very small things. We know the truth, we know the cop is wrong, but it sure looks like Baines is a killer. It’s small things, and they add up until the last five minutes, as Phile is desperately trying to tell what he thinks is the truth, but will surely doom Baines. Sweet! Bernard Lee has a small part as a detective. You probably know him as the original M from the James Bond movies with Sean Connery.