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Outcast of the Islands DVD

Carol Reed, 1951

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Film Details

Directed by Carol Reed

Produced in 1951

Main Language - English

Countries & Regions - British Film

MovieMail's Review

We're delighted to present a new exclusive DVD for MovieMail - Outcast of the Islands, a vivid and stormy film from 1951 based on a Joseph Conrad novel and directed by Carol Reed (The Third Man).

Trevor Howard was always good at portraying insufferable blowhards and irredeemable bastards, but he excels himself as Peter Willems in this adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s second novel, a tumultuous tale of a late-19th Century trader who escapes scandal and infamy in Singapore to take up equally disruptive residence on a small Malayan island ‘belonging’ to sea captain Lingard (Ralph Richardson).

A ruthless and conceited misanthrope, Howard’s Willems surpasses even There Will Be Blood’s Daniel Plainview; indeed, he makes that oil man seem a paragon of capitalist virtue. He personifies the worst excesses of rapacious imperialism: arrogantly taking what doesn’t belong to him and, worse, demanding it with an almost sociopathic sense of entitlement. Inevitably, he clashes with Almayer (Robert Morley, superbly pompous and pathetic), the blundering, overgrown schoolboy who is in charge of the island solely because he is married to Lingard’s demure daughter (Wendy Hiller), but it is his infatuation with — and single-minded pursuit of — the beautiful but formidable Aissa (Kerima), the daughter of an elderly local chief, that puts Willems on far more dangerous ground with the islanders.

Outcast of the Islands was Carol Reed’s follow-up to his triumvirate of classics, The Fallen Idol, Odd Man Out and The Third Man, and it shows no let-up in the director’s push for more richness in visual style, narrative sweep and psychological complexity. Not only is the film a finely detailed (and beautifully shot) exploration of the stormy waters of imperialist colonisation — with the elements of epic adventure and heated costume melodrama all in place — it is also a remarkably brave character study. For all Willems’ egregiousness, there is an inadequacy at his core, and a trace of humanity; there’s also an unquenchable passion that will put him forever at odds with his surroundings and his times. Howard brings this off marvellously, delivering a now 'forgotten' performance that ranks with his best. Not until Albert Finney went off his rocker in Under the Volcano was tropical meltdown captured quite as effectively again.

Julian Upton on 6th December 2011
Author of 171 reviews

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Film Description

Based on a Joseph Conrad story, Outcast of the Islands stars Trevor Howard (in magnificent form) as the morally compromised Willems, who finds himself stranded on a remote Indian Ocean trading outpost, where his malign influence soon spreads to all around him, including fellow English ex-pat Almayer (Robert Morley) and the crafty native Babalatchi (George Coulouris). Then Willems finds himself enthralled by the daughter of the local chieftain, but finds his lust turned against him by an Arab trader eager to get a share of business.

With its indelible images of tropical life and fine central performances from Trevor Howard and Robert Morley, Outcast of the Islands, which Carol Reed made after Odd Man Out, Fallen Idol and The Third Man, is one of cinema's finest adaptations from Joseph Conrad and should be far better known.

DVD Details

Certificate: PG

Publisher: Studio Canal

Length: 95 mins

Format: DVD B&W

Region: 2

Released: 23rd January 2012

Cat No: OPTD2344

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Community Reviews

by Barry Forshaw on 27th June 2012

Who better than Carol Reed to bring a vision of one of Joseph Conrad's most uncompromising stories to the film medium? And who better than Trevor Howard (in his heyday... Read on

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