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OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
DVD. Studio Canal

Outcast of the IslandsNot one of the best known of Joseph Conrad adaptations, Outcast of the Islands (1951) sees its first UK DVD release on 23 April. Nothing much of a package here to get excited about, but the picture is pleasingly crisp; all the better to view the ferocity alluded to in the film's original taglines, which are/were amusingly off-the-mark. Still, that 'soft, beautiful body of a woman' containing the 'soul of a savage' does have a good line in disapproving stare.

I'll admit to not having read the book, so can't really comment on faithfulness to story. Here, the central character is Peter Willems, a swindler on the run who hides out on a remote Indian Ocean trading outpost, having been rescued by a kindly captain. There, his characteristics of laziness and general untrustworthiness show no signs of abating, as he falls in lust with the daughter of the local chieftain, ripening himself for blackmail in the process, but not particularly caring.

There was probably some kind of commentary intended here on the destructive psychology of a man, but the film doesn't quite pull it off, the focus firmly on simple greed and desire for control; simply, we watch an ungrateful bozo mess his life up, who would have done so whether falling for a tribeswoman or not. Regardless, it's certainly fun watching Willems doing so, Trevor Howard really getting his teeth into the role, camping up his nastier moments with gusto, delivering his spiteful dialogue with bite. But his is not the only morally reprehensible character, in fact there is nobody in Outcast of the Islands to like, its world ruled by corrupt, greedy men. This is what makes the film so watchable, it being rather refreshing to not have the story saved by moral high ground. Sure, the final scene will make this appear to be the case, but listen carefully to the dialogue and the root of the story, greed and control, will make itself clear.

NAILA SCARGILL

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