Directed by: Carol Reed
Countries & Regions: United Kingdom
Studio: Studio Canal
Length: 95 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 23 April 2012
Cat No: OPTD2344
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Outcast of the Islands
Trevor Howard is a clerk in a South Seas trading post who gets involved in a smuggling plot via a secret sea route, eventually betraying... Read More
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.
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) to incarnate the writer's conflicted protagonist? Never before issued on DVD, this Conrad adaptation is a real find. Directed by the Oscar-winning British director of The Third Man. The hapless, self-regarding Peter Willems is escaping embarrassment in Makassar and finds himself stranded on a remote Indian Ocean trading outpost, where his conflict begins with an unsympathetic fellow English ex-pat Almayer (Robert Morley) and the Machiavellian native Babalatchi (George Coulouris) who tempts the Englishman with a beautiful sexually available native girl.