Posted April 20, 2012 by editor in Film Reviews

Outcast Of The Islands

Outcast of the Islands is based on Joseph Conrad’s novel of the same name, and legendary director Carol Reed remains far more faithful to his source material than Coppola was when adapting Heart of Darkness.


However, for some reason the film version of Outcast changes all of the white men’s wives into to Dutch expats (the story is set during the Dutch colonisation of Indonesia) – only the mysterious and dangerous Aissa is a “native”. As one critic has put it, the effect is to introduce a sub-plot about the horrors of inter-racial relationships missing from Conrad’s novel. No doubt Conrad would have been impressed at the way Reed captures the vibrancy, heat and lushness of his setting (no mean feat in black and white), even if at times the contemporary viewer may feel as though they’re watching clips from the National Geographic channel.


Those quibbles aside, 50 years after its release Outcast remains a gripping tale with superb performances from a cast of luminaries including Trevor Howard, Ralph Richardson and Robert Morley. Special mention also has to be made of now-forgotten Algerian star Kerima, whose name is inexcusably omitted from the press release accompanying this DVD. As the mute Aissa, Kerima delivers a masterclass in delivering dialogue using only subtle facial expressions and body language. Her performance during the final confrontation between the heartbroken Lingard and the deranged and desperate Willem is quite something.


This flawed classic is a poignant reminder of a time when successful movies were driven by plot and character rather than whizzy special effects. Highly recommended.


Clare Moody