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In the early years of World War II, a German U-boat (U-37) sinks Allied shipping in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and then tries to evade Canadian Military Forces seeking to destroy it by sailing up to Hudson Bay. The U-boat's Fanatical Nazi captain sends some members of his crew to look for food and other supplies at a Hudson Bay Company outpost. No sooner than the shore party (lead by Lieutenant Hirth) reaches the shore, the U-boat is spotted and sunk by the Canadian Armed Forces leaving the six members of the shore party stranded in Canada. The Nazi Lieutenant then starts to plan his crews' return to the Fatherland. He needs to reach the neutral United States or be captured. Along the way they meet a variety of characters each with their own views on the war and nationalism. In this film Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger show their ideas of why the United States should join the Allied fight against the Nazis. Written by
Steve Crook <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Raymond Lovell nearly drowned in the scene where the seaplane crashes in the lake as he couldn't swim and the plane sunk a lot quicker than anticipated. See more »
The woman heard over the Factor's radio (the wife of the man he plays chess with via radio) speaks with a thick Brooklyn accent ("sub*moige*"), when in fact she lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. See more »
I see a long, straight line athwart a continent. No chain of forts, or deep flowing river, or mountain range, but a line drawn by men upon a map, nearly a century ago, accepted with a handshake, and kept ever since. A boundary which divides two nations, yet marks their friendly meeting ground. The 49th parallel: the only undefended frontier in the world.
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(opening dedication) This film is dedicated to the actors who believed in our story and came from all parts of the world to play in it. See more »
It's a pity this movie is so little known, as it is so much better than the ridiculous portrayals of Canada in those silly Nelson Eddy movies. With Powell-Pressburger and Laurence Olivier involved, you have a right to expect quality...and you get it.
Pressburger's script won him an Oscar, and this is the best aspect of the film. The U-boat crew on the run through Canada is taken through a variety of communities and landscapes, but setting part of the story in a Hutterite commune was a stroke of genius. These ethnic-German fundamentalists (similar to Mennonites and Amish) are hospitable towards the fugitives, but react with horror to the Lieutenant's attempts to kindle some German patriotism and convert them to his cause. Although the Hutterite leader (nicely played by Anton Walbrook) is made to give some sententious speeches about freedom, the whole episode is very sensitively played and really makes us feel we have set foot inside a Hutterite commune.
Walbrook and Glynis Johns (as a young Hutterite girl) give the best performances, along with Raymond Massey as a Canadian AWOL soldier who discovers his conscience when it is really needed.
The Germans seem like stage-brutes, but it would be unreasonable to expect the subtlety of "Das Boot" in 1941. They are given individual characters, however, notably Niall McGinnis playing a kindly sailor with some scruples - who is executed by his comrades when he prefers to stay with the Hutterites.
Laurence Olivier plays a French Canadian Hudson's Bay Company factor. Although his performance is rotten, the character is interesting. The script bravely has him express pro-fascist sympathies before he discovers the true nature of the intruders, and this actually represents French-Canadian opinion in 1941; the Nazi commander tries to undermine his loyalty by referring to English oppression, a useless foreign war, etc. A film made by Canadians would never have dared to touch these sensitive subjects.
The tone and pacing of the film are similar to Hitchcock. It works very nicely as popular entertainment; you have to tolerate some patriotic speeches, but there are only about four, and reasonably well-expressed. The democratic message is better conveyed by the interactions between the fugitives and the unconcerned civilians living in a democratic society.
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