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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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HALL OF FAMEon 15 August 2007
"What are you really after, your cross or my soul?" asks the international art thief, Flambeau, of Father Brown.
"Both, of course," Father Brown replies.
"Well, come and find us," Flambeau says. "I'll make you a bargain. Whatever you can find you shall have."
"I accept your bargain," Father Brown says, and we're off into a gentle, amusing and thoughtful movie which stars Alec Guinness as Father Brown and Peter Finch as Flambeau.

Father Brown is a parish priest in an English village. He takes care of his flock, saves the souls he can, and tries to put the erring members on more wholesome paths. He also is eccentric -- or at least very honest. He practices karate, loves mysteries, is very near-sighted, is no one's fool and has great but realistic empathy. "I'm disappointed in you, Bert." he tells one of his flock who is a petty thief. "I'm sorry, Father, it was just..." "Firstly," Father Brown interrupts, "because you did wrong. Secondly, because you did wrong in the wrong way. Frankly, you are an incompetent thief." "Well, I wouldn't go that far," Bert says. "I would," Father Brown says. "You are clearly incapable of earning a dishonest living. Why not experiment with an honest one?"

A master art thief has been stealing works of art throughout Europe and one day manages to steal a priceless cross from Father Brown's church. With the assistance of Lady Warren (Joan Greenwood) and over the exasperated objections of his bishop, Father Brown is determined to find the cross, locate Flambeau and in the process, if he can, save Flambeau's soul. The search takes Father Brown to Paris and the French country side, down into catacombs and into Flambeau's chateau. At last there is a confrontation, and then a resolution that involves Lady Warren as well as Flambeau.

There are some first-rate, clever set pieces in the movie. An amusing triple exchange of packages takes place at a Parisian table. An excursion deep into the catacombs is complicated by the French police following Father Brown who is trying to follow Flambeau. Ernest Thesiger makes a brief but very funny appearance as an aged fellow assisting Father Brown in locating a document very high up on a shelf. In the process they break both their glasses. There also are a number of thoughtful exchanges between Flambeau and Father Brown as the one explains his philosophy of life and thievery and the other explains his philosophy of faith.

The movie can get a bit talky at times, but who cares when the talking is by three such first-rate actors as Guinness, Finch and Greenwood.
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on 26 October 2010
I was 11 when they made that film, I saw it first on television I think twenty or thirty years later, I bought a very bad NTSC tape copy titled "The Detective" about ten years ago - and I'm very happy to have it now on DVD. Good b&w transfer, good soundtrack (well, compared to the screeching NTSC tape). No extras, sorry, so what. I love it! It's old fashioned as well in its positive message and happy end, as well in its splendid actors and slow, unhurried, logical development. Good old times! No splatter, computer animation, the like. Just acting, good camera angles, putting scenes together. Alec Guinness is great, filling out this role as any other one, so is Joan Greenwood (in a positive role after all, cutting off her ambiguity) and a very elegant Peter Finch, also long suffering Cecil Parker. I wonder the advertisement insists on actor Gerard Oury: I do like him as a director of great French comedies, but he didn't direct this film, and as an actor he is rather by the way.
If you like film classics, this one will make you happy. You seldom leave the screen with a smile these days. But beware: it will spoil you for all the followers-up of Father Brown. Guinness will always be on top.
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on 30 August 2010
Although in black and white and a little dated, this is a great film for the whole family to watch. It is full of well known actors, Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood & Peter Finch to name just 3, all of whom give fine performances. An utterly charming film!
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There seem to be two main schools of thought regarding Father Brown: that the film isn't nearly so bad as its reputation or that, considering the material and the talents involved, it's disappointingly not nearly as good as it should have been. Although on the surface it feels like it should be an Ealing film, it was actually made by Columbia, which may account for the fairly lavish production values and French location shooting but the trade-off in charm.

First seen returning loot from a robbery committed by one of his parishioners, Alec Guinness very much plays Father Brown as one of his favorite actors, Stan Laurel (a trick he also used onscreen in A Foreign Field and, rather more unexpectedly, Malta Story). Less stern than Kenneth More's TV portrayal, it tends to play up the eccentricities rather than the central drama - unusually for the genre, the amateur detective is less interested in catching Peter Finch's master criminal and recovering his stolen antique cross than he is in saving his immortal soul. In many ways it feels like a bigger budgeted reworking of director Robert Hamer's earlier The Spider and the Fly, with Peter Finch taking the Guy Rolfe role, but while it never ducks the conflict between the one man's idealistic belief in the best in all mankind and the other's rejection of the human race, it never really reconciles the comedy and the drama and tends to give both of them short measures. The deft touch and sophisticated wit Hamer had shown in Kind Hearts and Coronets only five years earlier had by 1954 largely abandoned him as his drinking problems escalated, and with his rather bleak worldview he seems curious casting for Brown's optimism and belief in the good in all people - especially criminals. It's never a bad film and there are plenty of good moments along the way, not least Marne Maitland's gallant Maharajah outbidding a brash Texan at an auction, but throughout it's hard to shake the feeling that this really should be working so much better than it does.

Columbia's UK DVD offers a nice fullframe black and white transfer but despite the packaging inaccurately stating it includes the theatrical trailer, the only extras are trailers for Bunny Lake is Missing, The Hireling, Gumshoe and The Wrong Box.
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on 3 January 2015
very loosely based on the father Brown stories by G.K. Cheaterton, in which a mild mannered catholic priest solves mysteries. although Alec guiness is good as father brown, the plot is slightly disappointing, as father brown doesn't really do a great deal of detecting, Peter Finch likewise is good as Flambeau, the dashing thief, but doesn't really have enough to do. One feels that a more interesting plot could have been devised for them. it isn't a bad film, but it could have been a lot better.
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on 12 December 2010
I could watch Alec Guinness in just about anything, even the proverbial weather report! Nevertheless I'm afraid I can only bring myself to award this film three stars. It is a lovely little story and Alec Guinness is wonderful as always, but I think I found the writing a little lacklustre. Not one of my favourites but a great contribution to any AG fan's collection.

DVD transfer is very good - the sound and picture quality are both fine.
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on 22 October 2014
This story is repeated in the BBC father brown series but with a slightly different angle and ending. Remember seeing this film at the cinema but not till the last ten minutes. Excellent to watch on a Sunday afternoon after nosh.
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on 2 August 2013
Alec Guinness was born to play G.K. Chesterton's gentle, but surprisingly tough, detective-priest and gives this most enjoyable film its heart, its centre. Goodness is very hard to portray without sentimentality or self-righteousness, but Guinness manages it wonderfully; you believe absolutely that Fr. Brown wants, not to bring a criminal to justice, but to save a man's soul. His opponent Flambeau (a virile, clever performance by Peter Finch) is, as the father intuits at once, a good man gone wrong, and the mindless exercise of man's laws (rather than God's) will only make the situation worse. So the priest avoids the various patronising and imperceptive policemen also on Flambeau's trail and goes straight for the moral core of the issue. At the end of the film, we know that Flambeau has changed his ways forever, but it also seems anarchically likely that he will avoid a prison sentence - a most unusual state of affairs for a British film of the censor-ridden 1950s. This DVD version is advertised and sold under its proper British title, but it's obviously the American version of the film, using, on the film itself, its boneheaded American release-title ("The Detective" - imaginative, eh?) and giving us only a second or two of Eugene Deckers's performance as a Foreign Legion officer. As Deckers was only in one scene anyway, it might have been nice to feature his performance in its entirety. The picture loosely adapts the very first Father Brown story, "The Blue Cross", but updates it to the present, and the French Inspector Valentin (who in the story visits Britain) becomes the British Inspector Valentine, visiting France. The elements of Roman Catholic propaganda upon which Chesterton was always so insistent are quietly toned down, which is actually (for those outside the faith, at any rate) rather a relief. Robert Hamer directs very stylishly; alas, it was to be his last wholly successful film.
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on 7 April 2015
I love Alec Guinness but clearly I don't like Father Brown. I watched a couple of episodes of the recent English TV series about the crime solving priest with Mark Williams in the title role. Kenneth More also assayed the part in a 1970s TV series which I found rather dull. Surely if anyone could rescue a part it would be Guinness, especially in a tale revolving around the theft of a priceless holy artefact by beauty loving destitute French nobleman Peter Finch.
Alas no. Robert Hamer's 1954 English flick is also a bit of a plod. Father Brown comes across as rather a smug and falsely meek type and his preference for saving the non-existent souls of criminals is just too much to bear.
The film is professionally made, has a couple of decent moment and this is a nice print but it's not really worth bothering with.
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on 1 June 2011
A perfectly cast production, at last!

Alec Guiness, probably the best English actor who ever lived, and Peter Finch, certainly the best Australian one, (see him in Network, shortly before his death).

Except of course that Finch, like Guiness, was born in London. He lived in Australia from the age of 10, (How I wish that my 10 year old nephew would do that!).

Lovely Joan Greenwood and loveable rogue Sidney James are excellent in support.

The plot stays reasonably loyal to the book. However, If you like Chesterton's work as portrayed by film, television and radio, a read of the books is worthwhile.

My only complaint about this film is that it ends far too quickly. It is also reasonably priced.

Recommended for all ages.
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