When a German U-Boat captain is sent on a spying mission to the North of Scotland during World War One, he finds more than he bargained for in his contact, the local schoolmistress. Written by
Ian Harries <email@example.com>
St Magnus (the name of the steamer sailing from Longhope for St Romness and Thurso during the closing stages of the film) is the Patron Saint of Orkney. There have been several ships in that area with the name St Magnus. See more »
In the German submarine, the officers refer to depths in feet, and the depth gauge is calibrated in feet. On a German ship, depths would be measured in meters. See more »
Clever wartime thriller that has darker tones than much propaganda
During the World War, a German U-boat comes up on the coast of Scotland. At this point Captain Hardt leaves the vessel and travels to a small village to meet his contact. He plans to use the treacherous assistance of bitter Royal Navy Lieutenant Ashington to guide the Germans to the spot of the British fleet. However not all is fair in love and war and Hardt soon finds his operation at risk of compromise.
Of course, much more famous for The Red Shoes and A Matter of Life and Death, this film from Powell and Pressburger should not be over looked. While it is of course propaganda (released as it was in 1939), it is not a flag waving, lets all kill the Nazi's under the bed style film. Instead it stands up in it's own right as an exciting little thriller that makes some good points about the nature of war. The plot is quite straightforward at first but has a few nice twists that I won't spoil, and is generally enjoyable.
The strength of the film for me was the focus on a German Officer and not having him as a stereotypical evil tyrant. While the film doesn't let us wonder who the good guys and the bad guys are, it does at least allow Hardt to be more of a full person and the film better as a result. The ironies of the final action of the film is clear and is even more of a striking comment on war when you look at the `blue on blue' stats for Gulf War 2. Veidt does well in the lead as Hardt and is partly responsible for keeping him a bad guy without over egging the cake. Shaw and Hobson are good but perhaps a little too much of the `Heroic Brits' about them.
Overall this is a good wartime thriller but the unusual tack that it comes at, plus a darker and slightly subversive tone about it helps it stand out, if not from the rest of P&P's work, then certainly from the vast majority of wartime propaganda thrillers made in Britain around the second world war.
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