OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS is Joseph Conrad giving you another excuse to cancel your vacation to the tropics, in this exceptionally well done 1951 picture based on his 1896 book. Like Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness, the tone is dead-end desperation, as a morally irresponsible cad repays the good will of his employer and benefactors with theft and deceit, acts of contempt that remove him from his job and wife in Singapore, first to a backwater Malaysian village, finally to a position he hadn’t figured on.
Beautifully directed and produced by Carol Reed, shot in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon); there is atmosphere to spare, with superior black & white lensing from Edward Scaife (Night Of The Demon, Young Cassidy, Khartoum) and John Wilcox (Carve Her Name With Pride, The Last Valley). Superb screenplay was written by William Fairchild.
Thesping is faultless—Trevor Howard as the wretched bounder, Ralph Richardson as the main fall-guy, and Robert Morley as another outraged victim—is this Morley’s best dramatic work ever? The native girl who drives Howard to even greater excess is billed as Kerima. Publicity had the 25-year-old beauty (in her debut) hailing from Algeria, though she was actually from France. Thanks to the direction, camera and editing and her own exotic presence, without a line of dialogue, she makes herself as forbidding as she is tempting. *
Along for this trip to Conradian Hell are Wendy Hiller, George Coulouris and Wilfrid Hyde-White. The little girl playing the daughter of Morley & Hiller was Morley’s 5-year-old child Annabel. The camera-loving little boy playing the imp to Howard goes un-named in credits, lost to time.
* Kerima would later marry the film’s assistant director, Guy Hamilton, who would claim his share of cinema history directing Dr. No and Goldfinger.