Release Date(s)1947 (July 26, 2022)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B
Time Out of Mind is an odd picture that begins as an old-dark-house thriller, segues into a Gothic melodrama, and includes elements of film noir. With a script by Abem Finkel and Arnold Phiillips based on the novel by Rachel Field, the film takes place in 19th-century New England and deals with the inhabitants of a mansion by the sea.
Narrated by the housekeeper’s daughter, Kate Fernald (Phyllis Calvert), the film opens with waves crashing on rocks and slowly pans to reveal a massive home atop a hill. Kate has grown up in the household and is treated almost like a member of the family, though she’s careful to know her place.
The house is run with an iron hand by Captain Fortune (Leo G. Carroll), a cold, regimented seaman who believes firmly in tradition. Now retired, the captain comes from a line of men who made their careers at sea and he expects his sensitive son, Christopher (Robert Hutton), to continue in his footsteps.
Christopher’s sister Rissa (Ella Raines) is protective of her brother and willing to stand up to her father on his behalf. She and Kate are devoted to Christopher and recognize how much he hates the sea and how important music is to him. When his attempts at writing serious music don’t go as planned, he takes to the bottle and, even then, Kate stands by him.
Time Out of Mind is a grand soap opera wrapped up in period melodrama and isn’t helped by an uninspired cast. Apart from Leo G. Carroll as the icy patriarch, the cast members are lightweights without the charisma to raise the story above a B programmer. Director Siodmak appears to be going through the motions and fails to achieve any of the cinematic elegance he displayed in The Spiral Staircase or The Dark Mirror.
In the lead role, Calvert portrays Kate as an individual with enough self-assurance to act in ways a traditional servant wouldn’t while always making sure she never oversteps boundaries. Kate’s affection for Christopher is genuine. She recognizes him as a tortured soul and provides him with a sympathetic, caring shoulder to lean on. Unfortunately, Calvert lacks the screen presence to match her character’s self-confidence.
As Christopher, Hutton is so stiff that he fails to elicit much sympathy, which is essential if we are to be on his character’s side against a rigid, controlling father. His Christopher comes off as more whiny than conflicted, and his nervous breakdown scene simply doesn’t convince despite an elaborate staging.
Raines’ character is enigmatic. Rissa’s protectiveness of Christopher seems a bit too much. Apparently, she has inherited the toughness of her father and channels it into care for her weaker brother. If there’s another explanation for her devotedness, it’s never clarified. Raines plays Rissa with self-assurance that prompts her to confront her father. As the secondary female lead, she has a few good scenes, and she plays them with subliminal outrage and seething frustration as she sees her beloved brother falling to the will of the Captain.
Though the film is only 88 minutes, it feels sluggish, with dialogue dominating where visuals would have improved the pacing. We hear about Christopher’s accident at sea but never see it—the budget probably wouldn’t allow for such a scene. A final scene, in which Christopher conducts his own symphony, is played mostly in visuals, with the exception of the music, but it’s edited at such a slow pace that, rather than building suspense, it drags.
Director of photography Maury Gertsman shot Time Out of Mind with spherical lenses on 35 mm black-and-white film, which was finished photochemically and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics offers a new 2K master, which looks beautiful. The picture is rich in detail with varied textures evident throughout. Black levels are velvety and retain detail nicely. Process backgrounds, such as the ocean, are evident in some scenes. The opening matte shot of the Fortune mansion on a hill above the ocean is appropriately imposing. The film doesn’t show any signs of age or deterioration. Photography is fairly routine except for a couple of impressive, uninterrupted tracking shots—one of Kate walking from one room to the next and up the stairs, the other of her walking completely around the back of a theater and up two flights of steps. Shadows are used for dramatic effect on walls, and actors are attractively backlit, giving them a halo effect.
The soundtrack is English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio. Optional English SDH subtitles are included. Dialogue is clear and distinct throughout. Sound effects include waves washing up on rocks, a pane of glass breaking, horses’ hooves and carriage wheels, and different characters playing the piano. Christopher’s symphony, which dominates the final scene, comes across with forceful intensity, building to a crescendo as cutaways build suspense with off-stage action.
Bonus materials include the following:
- Audio Commentary by Lee Gambin and Elissa Rose
- Enter Arsene Lupin Trailer (1:43)
- The Web Trailer (2:17)
- Cobra Woman Trailer (2:08)
- The Spiral Staircase Trailer (2:01)
- Cry of the City Trailer (2:33)
In the audio commentary by author/film historian Lee Gambin and costume historian Elissa Rose, they discuss that Time Out of Mind, an abridged version of the novel, is referred to as a Gothic romance with elements of film noir, with its classic Gothic imagery and opening voiceover. The ocean is significant to the story, and the servant (Kate) is shown to be a good person. The costumes are true to period but with touches of the 1940s. Costume jewelry for the female leads was created by the same designer who provided “movie jewels” for Marlene Dietrich and Vivien Leigh. The piano represents an extension of the soul of Christopher. The power play between classes was common in films of the 1940s. The father has been dehumanized by his choice of career, and his wooden hand gives him a monstrous appearance. Director Siodmak creates an insular world in which the servants are part of the family, but at arm’s length. Universal was known for its horror movies, South Seas adventures, and comedies. Time Out of Mind was not typical of the studio’s output. Siodmak was “going for the Paramount look” in the film’s production design. The film is regarded by critics as an “underdog” of Robert Siodmak’s filmography.
Time Out of Mind doesn’t stand up very well. It was not a box office success originally and it was disliked by both its director Robert Siodmak and its star Phyllis Calvert. It lacks the craftsmanship of Rebecca and the grandeur of Wuthering Heights, though it aspires to the level of those Gothic classics. The film’s script is lackluster and the cast fails to enhance or elevate the material. Bigger name actors would have commanded more attention.
- Dennis Seuling