"I find that a bit disturbing."—Dr. McNally (Rod Steiger)
James Fuller (Stuart Whitman) is disconnected, distracted. A Canadian living in England, he is out of place from the start. His eyes betray regret. No wonder: he is a convicted child molester trying to put his life back together after being cured by a benevolent psychiatrist (Rod Steiger). Dr. McNally is his most earnest advocate, but soon Fuller finds other allies, including his new employer's lovely secretary (Maria Schell), who happens to have a daughter just the age of the girl Fuller once kidnapped.
The Mark is one of those sincere Hollywood movies where criminals really mean well and are misunderstood, and modern medicine is practiced by caring and sensitive doctors who sleep in their offices so they can be available to patients as "friends" whenever they need help. Dr. McNally is a miracle worker: determined, insightful, and empathic. Rod Steiger, sporting an Irish accent, adds a little twitchy color to give McNally some charm (you can easily see patients warming up to him), but his character goes through clearly prescripted moves. Stuart Whitman turns in what may be the best acting of his somewhat inconsistent career, avoiding the temptation to overplay Fuller in the usual manner Hollywood employs to portray the "mentally ill."
Pity the film itself works against these fine performances. Heaven knows it tries hard. Director Guy Green (who learned his craft as cinematographer on early David Lean films) cranks the film down to a plodding pace in an effort to avoid sensationalizing his subject. Instead, what results is a film without any suspense, drained of all urgency. Redemption for Fuller is a foregone conclusion. We are urged at every turn to pity poor Fuller as a victim of circumstance, programmed by a bad childhood, tempted by the sins of the world, so that his guilt becomes righteous self-torment. He becomes a martyr on the altar of Freud. Even in the film's second half, where he is humiliated by the police, exposed by an unscrupulous reporter, and tempted by his girlfriend's daughter (more Pollyanna than Lolita), these trials only serve to reinforce his martyrdom. Is it any wonder that nowadays Green cranks out earnestly soapy television movies for middle-aged housewives?
90-year-old Guy Green appears on a commentary track that is full of extremely long silences and rather dull remarks. Stuart Whitman also offers a commentary track that merely grumbles through a handful of anecdotes (although he does describe watching the movie as "painful"). You could combine these two tracks together and still have dead air on this DVD. VCI also throws in some behind the scenes photos, a 12-minute speech by Green as he accepts a lifetime achievement award for his cinematography, and a remarkably lurid trailer.
If only the movie were more like its trailer. It might have been tasteless, but at least it would have been interesting. Where The Mark fails is in its excess of taste. Sometimes sincerity is not a virtue.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: VCI Home Video
• Commentary by Guy Green
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