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This is one of five crime shorts on the Warner Bros Classic Noir collection 3,that goes under the banner of "Crime doesn't pay",so what you are getting is basically a Government propaganda film that details the smuggling of illegal aliens into the US from Europe via Central America. The US customs sets up a sting operation involving under cover agents and follows would be illegals on board the ship to Florida, its a well made film with some gruesome moments when the smugglers try and get rid of the "Live Illegals" when customs challenge them and that is basically the message of the film "Don't try and gain illegal entry, it could just cost you your life"
Forbidden Passage (1941)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Lesser entry in MGM's Crime Does Not Pay series takes a look immigrants finding illegal and dangerous ways of getting into America. This practice includes paying men to smuggle them in, which in most cases ends up causing their deaths or if they do make it here it could end up costing them a lot of money or force them into slavery. This MGM series is without question my favorite shorts series out there but this here is one of the weakest entries that I've seen. I think the biggest problem is that the story itself isn't very strong and it takes nearly until the end of the film for things to start to pick up and get entertaining. The way the group were disposing of the immigrants was an interesting thing to see and made for the most entertaining and suspenseful moment in the film. Sadly, everything leading up to this was rather poorly written and not very well executed. Addison Richards and Hugh Beaumont round out the cast.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is another in the "Crime Does Not Pay" series of M-G-M shorts that I found on the DVD "Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light". Forbidden Passage got an Oscar nomination (1941) and was directed by Fred Zinnemann, who would eventually win two of those. This one is about foreigners sneaking into our country illegally because of the constant delays when trying so legitimately, resulting in some of them winding up dead in sacks at the bottom of the ocean. That's what happens to one Otto Kestler wanting to see his wife and child after going through a couple of other countries. Among the players are Bill Edmonds-best known to me as Mr. Martini in It's a Wonderful Life-as one of the immigrants who brings his little girl along and a pre-"Leave It to Beaver" Hugh Beaumont who plays a U.S. customs agent speaking in a slightly stereotypical Swedish accent in disguising himself as a fellow immigrant. Nicely played drama throughout and Zinnemann provides some of his talents that made him such a world-renowned filmmaker.
Immigration issues are always tricky to deal with in American cinema
because the contribution of immigration to our national character and
prosperity due to the unlimited immigration of the 19th century is
still a matter of pride and should be. But during the Roaring Twenties
when we adopted more stringent immigration policy our attitudes
changed. Even now sad to say its not uncommon for the descendants of
immigrants to be the ones pushing the hardest for stringent immigration
policy. It's like the last groups in want to bang the door shut and
lock it against the future.
So in the Thirties with a whole lot of folks looking to get out of Europe because of Fascism, Communism and whatever other kind of totalitarianism you can name, we see MGM lauding the US Immigration Service in this Crime Does Not Pay Short. It's an ironic title here, Forbidden Passage, because the title is referring to a Forbidden Passage to America and freedom for the people you see in this short. Further ironical because it's directed by Fred Zinnemann who also fled Europe and would go on to a directorial career that got him two Oscars.
Addison Richards plays the intrepid head of the Florida branch of our Immigration Service and the short shows how he and our government deal with people who ruthlessly take advantage of the hopes and aspirations of millions of refugees. We still got those kind of ruthless people today.
This film might be timely for some even now because Moslem terrorism has kept immigration as an issue on the front burner. But in 1941 before Pearl Harbor this was one great message for our film industry to be sending abroad. Stay in Europe and be persecuted or risk running our strict immigration laws in America. I guess in one word a review of this film is YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESH.
And Forbidden Passage got nominated for Best Short Subject. All I can say is DOUBLE YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESH.
In the first few years of the Crime Does Not Pay series, the topics
usually covered murder, organized crime and the like. Starting around
the time WWII broke out, the topics became less and less about these
topics and more and more preachy--emphasizing good citizenship. This
one manages to both be about good citizenship AND is exciting and
violent--and it more watchable than most of this war-era films.
It begins as all these films do--with an actor dressed up like some government official introducing the film! I think MGM wanted to make the films seem more convincing by pulling a fast one on the audiences! The topic of "Forbidden Passage" is the business of trafficking in illegal aliens. To combat the problem, a special agent (Hugh Beaumont) goes under cover. The problem is that when the crooks think that they are about to get caught, they put the illegals in sacks, wrap chains around them and toss them into the water using a secret trap door on their ships. It really is horrifying to see them being jettisoned this way--and although it's pretty sick, it was also very exciting and the climax was entertaining. Worth your time.
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