Monday, January 25, 2021

"The Quare Fellow" - 1962

This is the story of a newly minted prison guard in Ireland, 1962, on death row duty and the story of how it affects him. Taken from the Irish play by Brendan Behan, the film is a convincing argument for both sides of the issue raised, yet still leaves room for the viewer to question both beliefs. Behan does this by making the focus of this play about the effects on the people involved, rather than the issue itself. It is the same technique which he employed brilliantly in his 1958 play, "The Hostage". 

I saw this performed in repertoire in NYC in the early 1980's. Even today it would not be too difficult to find it still playing somewhere, as it has been translated into about 22 languages. The ballad is sung by none other than Kathleen O'Connor. Not withstanding any changes in the adaptation to the screen, this is an excellent film, summed up in this exchange between the newly hired guard and his supervisor, a 22 year veteran of hangings on Death Row;  

"If you feel as you do about the job Sir, then why do you stay?" 

 "It's a soft job between hangings." 

 You might say that the older man, who is Catholic, has come to question the validity of the job he was hired to do all those years ago. Only the innocence, and presence, of the new guard allows the older man to give voice to his long pent up feelings about the job he has been doing for years.