Released in the United States as “The Smugglers,” “The Man Within” is the story of a young man who loses his father while he is away at a boy’s boarding school and is taken in by a man who shares the same line of work as his father: that of a smuggler. Constantly surrounded by people who either bully him or attempt to drag him down to their level, Francis Andrews knows that he has a problem hanging on to his naivete as a child, reticent about growing up into a man, which to him thinks it means reverting to base human nature. Yet Andrews comes across as being a self-blaming victim, a scapegoat at fault for everything the smugglers can and will do to Elizabeth, a woman who gives him refuge, and everyone else he comes in contact with. Based on the 1929 novel by Graham Greene, “The Man Within” portrays its characters as full human beings and their complicated relationships with others in their lives. Like Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, “The Man Within” as a novel does not translate smoothly into a screenplay but does provide the basic concepts of faithfulness, trust and betrayal in the story without over complicating matters.
A roaring fire appears in the opening scene of the movie in the interrogation room of the prison where young Francis Andrews (Richard Attenborough) is chained up and being interrogated for a crime involving ship smugglers. The prison interrogator (Ralph Truman) is austere, looking as if he might have been a hangman himself at one point in his life. The movie is told in flashback format, with Francis narrating the events which led up to his arrest and eventual liberation from jail. He starts at the beginning when speaking to the interrogator at how he was a student at a boys’ school until his father dies. The headmaster of the school calls Francis into his office and gives him the news, yet Francis manages to maintain an indifferent expression on his face, not caring that his father died, for he knew him to be a smuggler who abused the boy’s mother. Francis does not quite fit in at school; he is the black sheep among many who tend to give in to their base natures and eventually learns that adults are much the same way. His new guardian, Richard Carlyon (Michael Redgrave), seems to be a gentleman on the surface, refined in appearance, but in reality is in the same business that Francis’ father was: smuggling. Happy to leave school since he is the constant target of bullying, Francis leaves with Carlyon and they leave for a ship called “The Good Chance” where the smuggling activities take place. Much like modern day pirates, the smugglers that Francis works with are a rough crowd, no different from the boys he knew at school. He knows that he is not going to fit in with this crowd, and still being mentally young, possessing that childlike innocence, he will have a difficult time fitting in as an adult in a lot of places, unless it is in the one thing he loves the most: books. Maybe in Francis’s mind he wishes to be a librarian or bookstore owner but that does not manifest in this story.
On “The Good Chance” Francis goes below deck to speak with Carlyon who is busy writing. Carlyon warns the boy not to hate everything in his life, or else that hatred will eat away at him. Carlyon thinks that Francis will do all right being a member of the smuggling crew, since he is learning a trade of some kind. To Francis’ young mind, though, a living should be made honestly, not dishonestly, just as he should be honest about what he hates in life instead of being discreet about his real feelings.
Once Francis discovers the crew is involved with smuggling, he plots to escape, especially after a number of gold sovereigns are discovered in his possession by Carlyon, who then administers a series of whipping to him on board the ship. Later on Carlyon tends to the wounds but Francis shoves him away. Once again, Francis is too trusting and has not yet learned that trust is something that has to be earned, not automatically given to anyone, even if that person is a legal guardian. Francis escapes, he hides out but is faced with a major dilemma: what is he decided to reveal the smugglers to the local authorities? Then there is the problem of his relationship with Carlyon, who he still looks up to and could not find it in his heart to get him arrested or convicted. Better yet, would Francis have been better off by refusing to go on board that dreaded ship and running away?
Francis manages to remain on the lam from Carlyon and his gang, who he believes will kill him once they get their hands on him. Francis eventually takes refuge in a church, then in a little cottage where a young lady lives by herself after the smuggler killed her stepfather. In a small room in the cottage, she keeps her stepfather in an open coffin, waiting for it to be carried out and buried. Francis claims he has nothing to do with the smugglers and maintains his innocence, but he has the power of witness which could get the smugglers convicted. Ever since his feet have touched land, Francis has been running through fog, mist, shadows and darkness, the elements that shroud smugglers. The darkness and fog alone give the movie a nighmarish quality. At one point Francis is in the middle of a eerily lit patch of fog, running around in circles as he hears his last name being called from all different directions. The commanding voice that repeats “Andrews! Andrews!” only confuses Francis as he tries to escape a world he fell in to but was never really a part of. To top that off, Francis starts seeing Carlyon appear everywhere he goes: at the funeral of Elizabeth’s stepfather, in the church where he initially hides out; at the cottage, even at Lewes Inn where he meets another woman named Lucy (Jean Kent) and Henry Merriman (Basil Sydney) who needs Francis to help get the smugglers convicted. Elizabeth (Joan Greenwood) encourages Francis to attend the trial of the killing of her stepfather since she knows that he can help get the smugglers and Carlyon convicted.
When Carlyon makes his way to Elizabeth’s cottage in an attempt to track down Francis as he is hiding there, he refers to Francis as being a “Judas”, a betrayer which is not considered a good social label, even if that one is a betrayer of a group of criminals. After all, even criminals have their own code that they live by. Once Francis meets Lucy in Lewes Inn where he takes in a drink of brandy and a private steak dinner, he musters up the guts to go to go on the witness stand. Francis tells himself that he is doing this for Lucy and Elizabeth but more realistically, he is doing this for himself, to establish justice and make peace with himself. Francis has to grow up at some point and to a degree, he becomes a man by speaking from the witness stand. While in court he develops the courage to point out the smugglers to the prosecuting attorney who are present, but even though he mentions Carlyon by name, refuses to point him out in the room. Carlyon leaves the courtroom and hands one of the guards a letter that Francis had written regarding his relationship with Elizabeth. The smugglers laugh at Francis’ naivete in court, yet after the court session, Francis fells like he might have been able to do better on the witness stand, but deep down inside knowing that Carlyon will eventually go free due to his feeling of owing his loyalty to the man who replaced his own father. During the trial, Francis believes that his life will always be in danger of the smugglers if he exposes Carlyon, their ringleader, yet is unable to think in terms of non-sacrificial justice.
While “The Man Within” is not considered to be Greene’s greatest success – that would later be found in “The Basement Room” and “The Third Man”, “The Man Within” is watchable for its powerful characters and the chemistry between Richard Attenborough and Michael Redgrave. The novel is not that bad for a first publication, and it provides a glimpse of what his readers can expect in his future novels: the lack of clear cut black and white issues, religious overtones, sacrificial altruism versus non-sacrificial justice. The periodic flute music throughout the movie always shows itself as a sign that Carlyon is near Francis, for the former enjoys playing that instrument. Richard Attenborough was 24 years old when he posed as a 17 year old paranoid naif in this movie and pulls off the performance very well. The cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth is very picturesque and gives the viewer the feeling of looking directly into someone else’s dream. What really stands out in this film, however, is the chemistry among the actors. The sets are highly atmospheric, and Redgrave does his best at portraying a credible smuggler, while Joan Greenwood, Francis L. Sullivan, Basil Sydney, and Jean Kent provide support to the cast. Directed by Bernard Knowles, “The Man Within” is a film to be enjoyed for its complexities in human relationships and the resiliency a young adult must develop in order to deal with during the adult years.