Time Without Pity

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Time Without Pity
Time Without Pity FilmPoster.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joseph Losey
Screenplay by Ben Barzman
Based on Someone Waiting
by Emlyn Williams
Produced by
Cinematography Freddie Francis
Edited by Alan Osbiston
Music by Tristram Cary
Harlequin Productions
Distributed by Eros Films
Astor Pictures (US)
Release date
March 1957
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£100,412 [1] or £108,875 [2]

Time Without Pity is a 1957 British film noir thriller film directed by Joseph Losey and starring Michael Redgrave, Ann Todd, Leo McKern, Paul Daneman, Peter Cushing, Alec McCowen and Renee Houston. [3] It is about a father trying to save his son from execution for murder.


The film was directed by Losey after he was blacklisted in the U.S. during the McCarthy era. It was his second film in Britain and his first under his own name, [4] and the second film for which British cinematographer Freddie Francis was credited in that craft (the British credit is simply for "photography").

The screenplay was written by fellow blacklisted writer Ben Barzman and adapted from the 1953 play Someone Waiting by Emlyn Williams.


David Graham, a recovering alcoholic, returns to England having only one day in which to save his son Alec from hanging for the murder of Alec's girlfriend, Jenny Cole. Graham has been a neglectful, absentee father who missed the entire trial while he was in a sanatorium in Canada. At first, Alec refuses to see Graham, and when they do meet, Alec is without any hope for reprieve and cannot show any affection for his father.

His sobriety in constant jeopardy, Graham believes that his son is innocent and begins a frantic last-minute effort to find the evidence that will save his son's life, if not redeem himself as a father. With the help of his son's steadfast solicitor, Graham desperately, and often ineffectively, investigates the circumstances surrounding the girl's murder, visiting first her furious sister and then the home of wealthy car magnate Robert Stanford, where the girlfriend was killed. Stanford and his family have provided the only real support that Alec has ever known.

Graham ricochets between potential allies, foes and new leads in order to learn who the real murderer could be, with suspects including Stanford's beautiful wife Honor, his even younger secretary Vickie Harker and his adopted son who's Alec's best friend, Brian, who allows Graham to see what his own misspent life looked like through his son's eyes.

With the Home Office on standby to receive any evidence proving Alec's innocence, Graham is forced to extreme measures to try to establish the real killer's guilt.

In a private room, Graham is permitted a final meeting with his son, with Honor there. Alec passionately kisses Honor, adding a new dimension. The conversation also alludes to Alec's relationship with Jenny. Honor leaves to allow father and son a final embrace, and more confessions are made.

Graham visits a pub with Stanford and gathers some more clues before getting very drunk.

Going to a theatre, he finds Stanford's alibi of spending the night with an actress was not actually true. He confronts Stanford at his race track where he is test-driving a Mercedes 300SL. Stanford explains that anyone can be bought and offers Graham shares in his company in exchange for silence. Still lacking evidence, he says that Stanford is threatening to kill him if he tells the truth. A struggle with a gun ensues and David deliberately has Stanford shoot him dead, saving Alec's life.



Freddie Francis liked working with Losey "because he was very nervous, hadn't done a film for a long time and needed a lot of help. And I like it when people need help. " [5]

Critical reception

Monthly Film Bulletin said "Although it is rumoured that Joseph Losey has been employed on several British productions, Time Without Pity is the first feature film to credit his name since his arrival in this country six years ago. The style of the film is immediately recognisable – the exaggerated hysteria which characterised Losey's American work ( M and The Big Night). The key scenes are heightened to a pitch which the script will hardly sustain; the characters are continually occupied with feverish, cinematic "'business" (newspaper editors punctuating their conversation with dart-throwing, a drunken old woman in a crowded room full of alarum clocks). The handling of the interestingly varied cast is creditable: Michael Redgrave gives a sensitive and accomplished interpretation of the difficult role of the introspective alcoholic. Alec McCowen as the son and Leo McKern as the crazed motor-manufacturer both give stylish performances. In the version seen by the reviewer, there appear to have been considerable cuts in a climactic scene of violence." [6]

In British Sound Films: The Studio Years 1928–1959 David Quinlan rated the film as "average", writing: "Stylishly acted, but over-directed drama. Very sombre." [7]

Derek Winnert called the film a "dark-hued, intense, intelligent and stylised 1957 British noir  .. imaginatively and cleverly made by Losey, who pushes both its artistic symbolism and its heart-felt anti-capital punishment message to the limit." [8]

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  1. Caute, David (1994). Joseph Losey. Oxford University Press. p. 126. ISBN   978-0-19-506410-0.
  2. Chapman, J. (2022). The Money Behind the Screen: A History of British Film Finance, 1945-1985. Edinburgh University Press p 359
  3. "Time Without Pity". British Film Institute Collections Search. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  4. Gardner, Colin (2004). Joseph Losey. Manchester University Press. p. 15. ISBN   978-0-7190-6783-9.
  5. "Interview with Freddie Francis". British Entertainment History Project. 1993–1994.
  6. "Time Without Pity". Monthly Film Bulletin . 24 (276): 57. 1957 via ProQuest.
  7. Quinlan, David (1984). British Sound Films: The Studio Years 1928–1959. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd. p. 389. ISBN   0-7134-1874-5.
  8. "Time without Pity **** (1957, Michael Redgrave, Alec McCowen, Leo McKern, Ann Todd, Peter Cushing) – Classic Movie Review 5844 - Derek Winnert". www.derekwinnert.com. 2 August 2017.[ self-published source ]