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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The heroic resistance of the occupied Norway attracted, for some
reason, a fair amount of interest, in "The Commandos Strike At Dawn,"
"The Moon Is Down," and "Edge of Darkness."
Lewis Milestone, who has made the pacifist "All Quiet on the Western Front, is a key figure in crusading films about war..
His "Edge of Darkness" is a brave and interesting film ,and a touching tribute to Norwegian courage during the Nazi occupation...
The characterization is cleverly drawn: Errol Flynn, the fisherman who assumes command of the resistance in his small Norwegian village; Ann Sheridan, the willful and obstinate daughter of the respected physician Walter Huston who didn't want to know but is led inexorably to aid the resistance after his innocent daughter is brutally raped by a German soldier; Ruth Gordon, his shy retiring wife, as the neurotic mother who lives in dreams of the past; her greedy brother, the opportunistic businessman Charles Dingle who owns the cannery which employs most of the villagers, a traitor who "deals in facts... The future is with the New Order."
After the battle between the German garrison and the townspeople, when all his hopes and dreams are shattered, he wanders through the devastated village claiming it as his own: "It's mine, it's all mine", he cries with mad irrational eyes to a German patrol... Of course he is shot down...
Another characters in the movie: John Beal, the weak and traitorous son; an innkeeper (Judith Anderson) whose hatred of the enemy is intensified by their killing of her husband; and a courageous schoolmaster (Morris Carvosky), whose ivory tower is completely smashed...
The most interesting feature of the film is in its declination of social structure... The capitalist Dingle, is recognized by the brutal Nazis; the humble fisherman Flynn becomes the leader of the underground movement...
All the peacetime hierarchies are overturned: the lovely Ann Sheridan is capable to fall in love with Flynn, who, in peacetime, would have been untouchable..
Decision-making is no longer the exclusive right of the town elders, but of everybody... All the villagers must be involved... In the church they gather to decide whether or not to accept British guns and bullets... It is a matter for the villagers to decide by concord of opinion... They talk until they have agreed..
The film ends with the marching into the hills to continue their resistance... Walter Huston stumbles and falls... Flynn and his fiancée rush to help him up... He protests, "I can manage alone!" They persist, and as they hold him between them, Flynn says, "There is no need to walk alone."
One of the things that all of the films about Norway during World War
II fail to mention is why the Nazis were there in the first place. All
of the Scandinavian countries would have gladly sat out this war as
they did World War I. In fact all, but Sweden got into it for various
In the case of Norway, it's simply the long Norwegian coastline. Even before the Soviet Union was invaded, Hitler saw the necessity of preventing supplies from getting to the Soviets should they break the Hitler-Stalin pact and enter the war on the allied side. The convoy route used was the one into the Arctic Ocean into Archangel and Murmansk. No other route was possible for American lend lease. The Nazis operated bases from Norway and sank a lot of allied shipping in the North Atlantic.
So this is why this small village and so many others like it were occupied and why the country was invaded. The Norwegian people from the king and queen on down, knew their country was in a sideshow theater, yet they did resist as best they could.
In fact Mr. Churchill did mount a counterattack in Norway, but the invasion failed and British troops had to withdraw. From time to time he brought up freeing Norway during allied conferences, but could get no support for it from Roosevelt or Stalin.
Errol Flynn stars in Edge of Darkness and the usual Flynn derring-do is kept on hold. Probably in keeping with the stoical nature of Scandinavian character. He's not exactly Captain Blood in this one. He's a fisherman, but his natural qualities of leadership come through as he leads the resistance.
Edge of Darkness is the story of one coastal Norwegian village who put up with Nazi occupation beyond what was humanly bearable. The rape of Ann Sheridan finally touches off a revolt.
It's not a star vehicle per se. Errol Flynn and Ann Sheridan have a great deal less dialog than they would in most films. Edge of Darkness is a study of the various townspeople and the way each one of them deals with the Nazi occupation.
Walter Huston and Ruth Gordon are the parents of Sheridan and John Beal. Huston is the town doctor and tries to remain above the battle. Gordon, like Patricia Collinge in The Little Foxes, retreats into nostalgia. Sheridan is a resistance member and Beal was an informer in Oslo, but only the immediate family know it at first.
However the performance I like the best is Charles Dingle's. Dingle has always been one of my favorite character players ever. He's Gordon's brother, the owner of the cannery, and he quite deliberately chooses to collaborate with the Germans. He's the kind of villain you love to hate as is Helmut Dantine the commanding officer of the Nazi garrison.
We learn Dingle's fate at the beginning of the film and as the action unfolds in flashback the audience really rejoices in that fate.
No mistake about it, Edge of Darkness is a World War II propaganda film, but still entertaining today
I am old enough to have seen "Edge of Darkness" first run during WWII, and believe me this was a powerful movie for a 13 year old during the war. I've always remembered the effect of President Roosevelt's over voice message at the end of the film. For those who haven't seen this film the message was an excerpt from a speech he made probably in late 1940 or 41, and it refers to the resistance of the people of Norway to the occupation by the Nazis. I wouldn't doubt that it is possible that this speech was the inspiration for the novel from which the film is based. Yes, the way this over voice was used was a wartime "message" or propaganda if you will, but having seen and re-seen every war film made during WWII, I think this was about the best use of wartime messages.
From the mystery of the first scene, you know that this is not just another war movie. This dealt honestly and on a raw level with the gut-wrenching issues that emerge when a country is occupied by a people not very much unlike themselves. Both sides try to reconcile the apparent incongruities to peacefully co-exist and yet allow the Norwegians to keep their basic human dignity, but alas the positions are inevitably irreconcilable. Because the emotions it portrays are so genuine and honest, this is one of the best propaganda films made by the allies while the war was still ongoing. Nancy Colman and Judith Anderson are standouts in a uniformly excellent cast. I consider this the perfect war film.
I keep a list of 100 all time favorite movies. This movie is in the top fifty. It has superb actors: Walter Houston, Ruth Gordon, Errol Flynn, etc. The Director did an excellent job. The movie shows that humans, when beaten down too harshly, will rise up, if given the opportunity, to destroy the oppressor and restore freedom of choice. In this case, the German Nazis brutally oppress the Norwigans of a small fishing village. The full range of human emotions is displayed. This is drama at its best. It would help galvanize a world against the oppressor. After WWII the film is still applicable to world events somewhere. It is a great history movie!
This terrific movie is remarkable for many things. It holds you in a vice-like grip from its unforgettable beginning. Nazi troops see the old flag of Norway flying and go to investigate but find hardly anyone still alive. Helmut Dantine is remarkable as one of the most humane and believable Nazi captains ever portrayed on film. The Germans have some respect for the Norwegians, some but perhaps not enough. Attempts to interact and work together are sabotaged by irreconcilable differences. The camera work and score are both magnificent. One interesting thing here as the movie's nominal star, Errol Flynn (playing a Norwegian named Gunnar (!) ), takes a back seat to riveting and magnificent performances by the supporting cast. Special standouts, besides Dantine, include Judith Anderson, Walter Huston, Nancy Coleman, Ann Sheridan, and John Beal. Watch it and you will never forget it.
Edge of Darkness is a rare movie that makes you think about it weeks after you've seen it. It is also rare in that 7 or eight of the supporting performances hit much more deeply than the nominal star's. Errol Flynn is the star, playing a character named Gunnar no less, but in many ways, he is almost peripheral to the real life drama and depth of emotions brought to life by the supporting cast. Ann Sheridan, Nancy Colman, and Dame Judith Anderson all bring vividly to life the choices women are forced to make during an occupation, and Walter Huston, Helmut Dantine, John Beal, and Morris Carnovsky are equally memorable in their roles. A must see.
This is a pretty powerful film with star performances to match. I usually don't care for flash backs, but don't give up on the film, the beginning does NOT give away the end. This isn't a Can't-Miss-Classic like Casablanca, but it's very well worth the watching. I gave it an 8.
"The Edge of Darkness" is a 1943 propaganda film about a Norwegian
fishing village rising up to fight the Nazis. However, this movie is a
cut above other propaganda movies. The cast is excellent, top-notch all
the way: Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan, Walter Huston, Ruth Gordon, John
Beal, Helmut Dantine, Judith Anderson and Morris Carnovsky. Sometimes
on the IMDb message board, a poster will ask for opinions on the best
ensemble cast ever assembled. This one deserves a mention. It's
probably not at the top of everyone's list because it was released
while Errol Flynn was fighting statutory rape charges, which was a
distraction to audiences, certainly, and also because it followed
Norway was dragged into the World War II conflict because Hitler was very concerned about protecting the Norwegian shoreline so that the Russians could not receive supplies if they joined the Allies. In the story, the village is being occupied by the Nazis, who are taking the people's shipments of basic necessities and oppressing the entire town by their very presence - curfews, patrols, and the commandeering of the local hotel as their base. Flynn plays the head of the resistance, a brave fisherman named Gunnar Brogge. He is joined in the fight byand by other villagers and by the woman he loves, Karen Stensgard (Sheridan). Her father (Huston) is a doctor who, like many others, has been content not to make waves; his wife (Gordon) longs for the days before the war when the family was together. Karen, however, has no such wish - her brother, Johann (John Beal) is a weakling who collaborated with the Nazis in Oslo. Hearing that he's returning home, she warns the resistance group that he could cause problems. Meanwhile, the group waits to receive a shipment of arms so that they can fight effectively.
The director, Lewis Milestone, has created an atmosphere where one feels the oppression, fear and frustration of these simple people. There are powerful scenes that demonstrate the viciousness of the Nazis, led by Helmut Dantine. One scene is off-camera - the rape of Karen. As another poster here commented, she of course looks fabulous when she returns to the group - some dirt smudges and her beautiful hair falling around her face. That is really the one false note in this story of great bravery.
The entire cast is terrific, led by Flynn, who demonstrates quiet strength and determination as Gunnar. This is really an ensemble piece, however, and Flynn and Sheridan do not overwhelm the production. Walter Huston again demonstrates his brilliant acting skills as a man trying to stick it out without having a high profile, and Gordon is sympathetic as his wife, who yearns for the family moments that are now gone. All of the roles, including the smaller ones, are essayed beautifully.
I am sure that this film was very inspirational when first seen, particularly the radio message from Roosevelt at the end of the movie. "Edge of Darkness" is a compelling story about the effect of the war and occupation on the average person.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Edge of Darkness is what Hollywood used to be about. Younger viewers
will probably be shocked that indeed movies were once made that
extolled virtues such as self sacrifice, heroism, patriotism and
courage against overwhelming odds. While the setting is in Norway, it
reflects what America once believed. There is no political correctness
here. Pacifists and collaborators are viewed as traitors. Tolerance for
the invader is unthinkable.
Told in flashback we learn that a small Norwegian village has been under German occupation for several years. The Germans routinely harass, abuse and generally ride rough shod over the locals whose tempers have reached the boiling point. The Germans feel free to take what they please while the inhabitants struggle to exist.
Slowly but surely the villagers, led by Gunnar Brogge (Errol Flynn) began fighting back by engaging in acts of sabotage, defiance and even assassination. The Germans counter with ever harsher regulations and measures. After receiving guns from the British, the people rise up and engage their oppressors in a climactic battle of annihilation. Yes, there was a time when guns were recognized as instruments of freedom.
The performances in this film were outstanding. One can only cheer when Karen Stensgard (Ann Sheridan) proclaims "To a free Norway". Equally good performances were wrought by Helmut Dantine, Walter Huston and Richard Fraser. I particularly enjoyed Frasers transformation from a meek pastor who wants peace at any price, to a Tommy Gun toting avenger who saves the lives of soon to be executed hostages. Equally impressive is Hauptmann Koenig's (Helmut Dantine) wide eyed frightful exclamation, "You didn't see them, they just kept coming and coming...", when his headquarters is under siege.
Very effective was the soundtrack which was dominated by the strains of "A mighty Fortress is our God".
As the movie concludes we hear the voice of FDR invoking viewers to "Look to Norway" if they doubt why we were engaged in that titanic endeavor known as World War II..
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