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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good TV Treatment of an Odd Anomaly in Greene's Career, 8 Sept. 2011
This review is from: The Tenth Man [DVD] (DVD)
"The Tenth Man," is an all-star, full-color television treatment, made for the one-time prestigious American series "Hallmark Hall of Fame." It is based on a bleak suspenseful thriller that was, to me, for years, a puzzling anomaly in the writing career of distinguished British author Graham Greene. The underlying crime drama is only 156 pages, really novella length, yet it has his usual power, though it lacks the accreted detail I've gotten used to in his work. Still, in its 100 minutes, the film gives us an excellent picture of wartime, occupied France, and the people who had to live there; the city of Paris, and the countryside at the time. Greene's characters, as ever, are sharply drawn, and ring true to their natures.

The production is set in 1944, in a German Gestapo prison in occupied France, during World War II, where 32 Frenchmen have been taken hostage. Local resistance activity causes the Germans to decide that one of every ten men - three men--must therefore meet their deaths by firing squad, but they don't care which three men. The hostages draw lots. Anthony Hopkins (The Hannibal Lecter Box Set [Blu-ray][Region Free]) plays Jean Louis Chevel, a lawyer and a rich man. Chevel gets one of the marked ballots; he offers his entire fortune, and all his holdings, to the heirs of any man who will take his place. A sickly young man Michel Mangeot, known as "Janvier,"(played by Timothy Watson) agrees. As the Germans are driven out of France-- Paris was liberated on August 25, 1944-- and the war ends for the French, the hostages are released. Chevel, not knowing what else to do, finds his way to his hereditary estate in the country. There, as he travels under an assumed name, Chevel finds Janvier's mother, Madame Mangeot, played by Brenda Bruce, and sister Therese, played by Kristin Scott-Thomas,(Four Weddings & A Funeral Se [DVD] [1994];The English Patient [DVD] [1997]). For lack of anything better to do, Chevel becomes their unpaid handyman. He falls a little in love with the sister, but realizes that mother and sister hate "Chevel" for taking Janvier's life. Then, suddenly, the immensely talented Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius [Complete BBC series, uncut] [1976] [DVD]) shows up claiming to be Chevel, when, in truth, he is a wanted collaborator and murderer on the run. Cyril Cusack (My Left Foot [DVD]) plays the priest. It is a bleak tale, as noted above, much briefer and less detailed than the author's usual work, although, in this latest crisis in his life, Chevel may be considered at least to have rediscovered his humanity and his courage.

The author, it turns out, amazingly enough, wrote the novella upon which this film is based, in 1944, well before VE Day, Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945. He wrote it as a film treatment for the Hollywood film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where he was under contract, along with a couple of other treatments, one of which is very clearly the germ of his remarkable novel, Our Man In Havana: An Introduction by Christopher Hitchens (Vintage Classics), and the film based upon it, Our Man in Havana [DVD] [2005]. At any rate, both Greene and the studio forgot about the existence of these treatments and they lay in the MGM archives until 1983, when someone found them and decided to publish at least THE TENTH MAN. Greene could barely remember writing the treatment, and thought it was only a few pages: he was mightily surprised to discover it was more than 150; and, as it was determined it was to be published; he worked on cleaning it up a bit. It was published in 1985. Then, as happened with many, if not most of his works, the novella was filmed, under the same title, as a 1988 television episode for the American show, "Hallmark Hall of Fame." It was filmed on location in France, was directed by Jack Gold, and it got the all-star treatment. I once caught this movie on late-night TV, and, as noted above, wondered about it for years.

Greene (1904-1991), who was one of the more illustrious British writers of the 20th century, enjoyed a very long life, and a very long, distinguished, prolific writing career. Some of his writing highlights are The Power and the Glory (Vintage Classics),The End Of The Affair (Vintage Classics), andThe Third Man.. Many of his books were bestsellers; most - 56% is the percentage I've seen-- were made into movies, some more than once. He was one of the better-known Catholic converts of his time; many of his thrillers, as this one, deal with Catholic themes of guilt and redemption. He created morally complex characters, while he explored moral and theological dilemmas through psychologically astute character studies, presented in exciting dramas on the international stage. This one is very hard to find, but worth seeing, not least for the acting, if you can.
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