My January 12th blog post, “City of Shadows,” featured excerpts from the first part of Out of the Shadows, a film made for the Salvation Army in 1957 by Lew Parry Film Productions. That section showed, with devastating frankness, the day-to-day experiences of a homeless alcoholic on Vancouver’s Skid Row.
My comments considered the film’s stylistic similarities to the film noir canon. I contrasted it with the other films made by BC producer Lew Parry, which were mainly industrial and promotional in character. I also discussed a closely related film that was made a year earlier — Allan King’s CBC Vancouver documentary Skidrow.
The previous clip from Shadows ended with the man passing out in an alley, where he is found by the police. We pick up the story the next morning, in a continuing flashback: he wakes up in jail and discovers that he has lost more than he realized. As he says, “This time it was different.” In ensuing scenes, we’re shown his growing awareness of his condition, his acceptance of help from the Harbour Light Corps, his efforts to regain his confidence and self-respect, and his newfound faith.
As its title indicates, Out of the Shadows offers the hope of recovery. It does so in a non-judgmental way, offering understanding and compassion to the men of the Skid Road. The tone is not overtly “preachy”, and the steps our hero takes are practical ones, supported by his religious beliefs.
This part of the film has several memorable scenes. The protagonist’s realization that he has “really hit bottom” is captured in eloquent close-ups. His restless wandering on the city streets is depicted in a very evocative manner. His two encounters with the pump organ, showing music as something that has left him, “along with everything else” — but which can ultimately be regained — provide a powerful metaphor for his condition. The narrator’s simple statement, “And this was my room,” underscores a poignant scene handled with restraint. The sudden appearance of “temptation” (a proffered drink of rubbing alcohol), and the decision to walk away from it, give the story its quiet climax.
I’ll just point out that the video clip presented here has been edited to condense this part of the film to a reasonable length. In addition, the closing scene that frames the central flashback has been omitted. However, a reference copy made from the (almost) complete surviving print can be viewed in the BC Archives reference room.