Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Graham Greene's The Basement Room (AKA The Fallen Idol)

The Basement Room is a 1935 short story by Graham Greene and it’s best known for being the story on which Greene based his screenplay for Carol Reed’s superb 1948 film The Fallen Idol. The Basement Room is available in an edition along with Greene’s The Third Man.

A young boy named Philip lives in a large house in Belgravia. He has limited contact with his parents but that doesn’t worry him, because he has Baines. Baines is the butler. Baines is very fond of the boy. For his part Philip hero-worships Baines who regales him with stories of his adventurous youth in Africa (some of the stories may even be true). It would all be wonderful, except for the presence of Mrs Baines. Mrs Baines rules the household and has little time for boyish nonsense.

What Philip doesn’t realise is that Mrs Baines is as much a nightmare to Baines as she is to him. You see Baines has a lady friend. Which is a big secret that Philip must not tell Mrs Baines.

Philip is seven years old and he’s just beginning to discover life. And he doesn’t like it at all. The rules seem to be very complicated and there’s a lot of unpleasantness. Grown-ups don’t really seem to be all that happy. Grown-ups also have a lot of secrets and it’s very confusing for a young boy when he becomes privy to some of those secrets. Secrets can be very dangerous things. Keeping secrets can be dangerous and not keeping them can be dangerous also.

It’s a neat little story with a nice little sting in the tail. And it's recommended.

The film version most follows the short story until it gets to the end which has some subtle but actually very significant changes. It’s a fine short story but the film version is much richer.

You can find my review of the film version, The Fallen Idol, at Classic Movie Ramblings.

1 comment:

  1. I have watched the movie The Fallen Idol, and is a beautiful take at how children develop their consciousness and understanding of this complex world. The mystery regarding Mr and Mrs Baines and Philip being the only witness, and all the suspense around them is beautifully plotted in the movie. I guess it is not too late to read The Basement Room yet? Please visit us at https://www.bloghasting.com/