`Fallen Idol' is a masterpiece of psychological suspense

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With twin freshets of wit and feeling, that sorely neglected genre, the psychological thriller, returns to the Charles today in the restored print of Carol Reed's small wonder of a movie, The Fallen Idol (1948). It's the rare film depiction of imperiled childhood that in its sophisticated tension deserves comparison to Henry James.

Graham Greene adapted his short story "The Basement Room" for Reed, and preferred this collaboration with the now-unsung director to their more famous partnership on The Third Man. Greene thought this was more of a writer's movie. But what vitalizes The Fallen Idol is the miraculous, mercurial performance Reed coaxed from 8-year-old Bobby Henrey, who plays Felipe, the son of an ambassador to Britain from a French-speaking country. "Adults are controlled," Reed said, "they hold their arms still, but if a boy is upset he twiddles a string, arches his back, twists his legs." Reed turns Henrey into a marvelous embodiment of a chaotic consciousness.

The Fallen Idol (Rialto) Starring Ralph Richardson, Michele Morgan, Sonia Dresdel, Bobby Henrey. Directed by Carol Reed. Unrated. Time 94 minutes.

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