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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Time Without Pity (1957)

"You mean he's given up hope? Well, I won't have it. All of you trying to make it look so humane and decent. You can't. I want my son to live! I'm not going to let you kill him."
- David Graham (Michael Redgrave)

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: March 28, 2004

Stars: Michael Redgrave, Leo McKern
Other Stars: Ann Todd, Peter Cushing, Alec McCowen, Joan Plowright, Paul Daneman, Lois Maxwell
Director: Joseph Losey

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence)
Run Time: 01h:25m:13s
Release Date: March 30, 2004
UPC: 037429193723
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B+C+ B-

DVD Review

Like many directors faced with extreme scrutiny during the years of McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee, Joseph Losey was forced to flee his native America and set up shop in Europe. True, Losey did have short-lived ties to the communist party in the 1930s and '40s, the history of which would forever tarnish his reputation. In England, he turned to television projects, and was not allowed to put his real name in the credits until Time Without Pity, a stunning, little-known low-budget thriller noir that established Losey as a talented film director.

As a half-shaven, scruffled man teeters into town, his expression is one of deep concern. David Graham (Michael Redgrave), a failed writer and rabid alcoholic, has just been released from a Canadian hospital after receiving treatment for a liver-busting drinking binge. His son, Alec (Alec McCowen) has been tried and sentenced to death for the murder of his girlfriend, Jennie Cole (Christina Lubicz). However, he is innocent. David, whose neglect of Alec has become as reliable as the ticking of a clock, knows his son would never do such a crime, and sets out to prove Alec's innocence before he takes a trip to the gallows.

Before he can do so, David must work through a haze of distorted facts, testimony, and alcohol, and become a detective, uncovering the evidence the police have not. He questions a sordid cast of characters: Robert Stanford (Leo McKern), a hard-hitting auto salesman who wants desperately to keep this scandal away from his company; his wife, Honor (Ann Todd), wants nothing more than to exonerate the young Alec, for a variety of reasons; their son, Brian (Paul Daneman), is Alec's best friend, whose loyalties become divided; Stanford's secretary, Vicki (Lois Maxwell), and the victim's sister also play pivotal roles. David knows there is something dark and sinister being hidden, and it is a race against time to find the right information and complete the puzzle, before either whiskey or a noose closes the case for good.

Taking a page from the brilliant structure of High Noon, Time Without Pity relies heavily on the tension afforded by limited time. Clocks are present throughout the film and are the centerpiece of Vicki's house—her mother adores the sound of ringing clocks, much to the dismay of David. Always an effective way to build tension, this element becomes lost at various points the film, losing some of its momentum. Also, it is a bit hard to believe that a half-drunken man on a last minute crusade to save his son would uncover facts that a hardened investigator (played with finesse by a pre-horror Peter Cushing) would simply overlook. Nevertheless, I'm willing to put aside these nitpicks for the sake of the film's concept, which is undeniably intriguing.

Talent is clearly at work both in front and behind the camera. Losey's direction is sure-handed. Brought to life by some stunning, high-contrast noir cinematography by Oscar winner Freddie Francis, the film looks great (despite a shot that reveals the crew reflected off the side of a well-polished car). Francis' compositions and use of mirrors are interesting and effective. The film's standout performance is clearly Michael Redgrave, whose disheveled David emotes the perfect mix of desperation and haphazard detective work, all the while using every ounce of his being to resist the urge to dive into the nearest bottle (alcohol is frequently shoved in his face by those he interrogates). Supporting characters do a splendid job as well, including Alec McCowen as David's initially bitter, then terrified son. Also noteworthy is Leo McKern, whose performance is so over the top in an almost comic book fashion, it works well.

Aside from throwing in some clear anti-capital punishment messages, Time Without Pity relies on the frantic ambition of David, who wants nothing more that to make up for the sins of his past. It is his undying devotion to his son that ultimately drives the piece, not a lack of time.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Home Vision has provided a luminous transfer that preserves Francis' high-contrast photography. The black-and-white images exhibits good detail, some noticeable grain and infrequent print damage. There is one point in the film that is a clear jump cut. Whether or not this section was removed due to damage or due to censors is unknown. Overall, it is a well-restored, impressive image for a low-budget film.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono track, spread across the two main channels, shows signs of the film's lack of funding. Some dialogue has a clear echo when it should not, either from bad on-set recording or poor looping. Sounds can be harsh at times, and there is noticeable hiss in the soundtrack, but it is not distracting.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Essay by Wheeler Winston Dixon
Extras Review: Aside from filmographies for director Joseph Losey, Michael Redgrave, and Leo McKern, Home Vision has dug up Losey's odd directorial debut: A short film made for the 1939 New York World's Fair entitled Pete Roleum and his Cousins (16m:23s). Once I learned it was commissioned by the Petroleum Industry Exhibition, the unsurpassed creativity of those oil tycoons became clear. Surprisingly, the film is in color, exhibiting signs of a very early multi-tone process. Through the miracle of stop-motion animation, the film touts the many types of petroleum products that are so "vital" to the public. This is accomplished through various oil-drop characters, who occasionally break into song. I kid you not. Frankly, this is one of the most frightening films I have ever watched. Ever wondered what a narcotic-influenced Tim Burton would produce? Look no further. Really disturbing, cold-sweat inducing stuff.

A unique, albeit emotionally scarring extra, but I would have preferred some material on the film itself.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Losey's noir thriller is made stunning by good performances, well-built tension, Freddie Francis' cinematography and Home Vision's fine presentation. Although not without flaws, this is an overlooked film that should be rediscovered. There's no time like the present.


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