Many may be disappointed with Richard Brooks’ handling of the Joseph Conrad novel. The storyline is often confused, some of the more interesting characters emerge merely as shadowy sketches. Brooks, while capturing the spirit of adventure of the novel, only superficially catches the inner emotional and spiritual conflict of its hero. In this he is not overly helped by Peter O’Toole whose performance is self-indulgent and lacking in real depth.
The story concerns a young merchant seaman. In a moment of cowardice he deserts his ship during a storm and his life is dogged throughout by remorse and an urge to redeem himself. His search for a second chance takes him to South Asia. There he becomes the conquering hero of natives oppressed by a fanatical war lord.
Brooks has teetered between making it a fullblooded, no-holds-barred adventure yarn and the fascinating psychological study that Conrad wrote. O’Toole, though a fine, handsome figure of a man, goes through the film practically expressionless and the audience sees little of the character’s introspection and soul searching.
Of the rest of the cast the two who stand out, mainly because they are provided with the best opportunities, are Eli Wallach and Paul Lukas.