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C. Aubrey Smith
Captain Fred Allison has been in a German Prisoner of War Camp for a long time. It has been two years since he last saw Monica, a girl he met, married and bought a house with in six days before leaving for the front. It has also been a very long time since she had last wrote to him. A month after all the prisoners have been put into lock down after a failed prison break, two things change. One is that the camp gets a new commandant and the other is that Fred's oldest and dearest friend Digby shows up. While Fred is happy to see Digby, he says little about Monica, whom Fred speaks of constantly. Unable to tell Fred that Monica had fallen in love with him, Digby escapes back to his own lines. But because of a murder that occured during his escape, he may be facing the trial of his life and also the trial by Fred who found a letter that Monica wrote to Digby. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Unknown World War I prison drama is a relic but still carries a punch...
In a salute to director Roy Del Ruth, TCM aired this one, a relic from the early past of Capt. LESLIE HOWARD and Lt. DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS, JR., who are both prisoners of war in a German concentration camp run by Commandant PAUL LUKAS. Howard's wife is MARGARET LINDSAY.
It's a forerunner of films like STALAG 17, but the accent is on drama rather than comedy and the love interest is crucial to the plot, with Howard separated from a wife he hasn't seen in two years. With dialog full of clichés, some of the romantic moments (flashbacks to Howard's past) are an embarrassment.
Howard is reunited with an old friend (DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS, JR.) when his plane makes a forced landing and he ends up in the same prison camp. Fairbanks is grilled by Howard about his wife and how she is--and we soon learn that Fairbanks has been having a relationship with her. The plot develops into a study of their relationship as comrades despite both loving the same woman and generates further suspense when Fairbanks is wrongly suspected of killing and raping a German woman.
The performances are excellent with Howard and Fairbanks both extremely impressive. The firing squad scene seems a bit excessive for dramatic effect when Howard's nobility takes over and he confesses that he knows the truth about Fairbanks' innocence in the murder. It's a grittier, scruffier and more virile role than usual for Howard and he makes the most of it.
Naturally, this being a POW drama, there are escape plans that give added suspense to the final scenes with Howard heroically enabling a great escape. It looks as if it was given low-budget treatment by Warners except for some good action scenes.
Summing up: Creaky plot but worth watching. The trench warfare scenes are well staged.
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