In keeping with my salute to Rod Steiger I’m reviewing my personal favorite performance in a film by him.
THE MARK 1961
This movie deals well with an unpopular but sadly common problem in our society. Child molestation is repulsive and rightfully condemned by society; but, short of executing the offenders, what can be done to prevent the offenders from harming others? Stuart Whitman plays the paroled molester as a very troubled man trying to control his sexual disease with the help of his psychiatrist (Rod Steiger) and also tries to establish a normal relationship with a mature woman (Maria Schell). There are very good performances in this movie by Whitman and Rod Steiger especially, with very good supporting performance from Maria Schell.
The role of the prison psychiatrist was intended for Trevor Howard before Rod Steiger was cast. But Steiger gives the best performance of a therapist that I’ve ever seen. According to an interview given by Steiger many years later, he had visited an analyst himself in the 1950s and observed how he conducted himself. He played McNally as an Irishman to avoid stereotyping and added touches to impart more humanity to the character. Steiger claimed that the portrayal was so well received by psychiatric professionals that he was invited to speak at a convention by a psychiatric society.
Its subject matter made it controversial and it was criticized for making the pedophilic protagonist too sympathetic. It also received favorable reviews for its treatment of a difficult subject, and praise for the acting, writing and directing. The story of a 33 year old man, Jim Fuller, released from prison after serving a three year term for intent to commit child molestation. Fuller is assisted by the prison psychiatrist in obtaining a position. He does well in this position and falls in love with the secretary of the owner of the company. A child is molested and beaten in the town where he now lives and the police pick him up for questioning. He has an alibi and is released, but a reporter who covered his former trial recognizes him. The reporter begins to follow him and reports that Fuller spent time alone with the daughter of his girlfriend. He has an alibi and is cleared, but a reporter exposes Jim’s previous conviction and his presence in the company and community is no longer wanted.