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Erik Toresen, widower and fishery observer, leads a quiet life in a small Norwegian town; but after the Nazi occupation, German abuses lead Erik to form a Resistance group. After a killing, Erik flees to the wilderness and finds a secret German air base; he resolves to escape to England with its location. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The climax was inspired by the British & Norwegian commando attack on the islands of Vagsoy and Maaloy on December 27, 1941. From "The Commandos" by Russell Miller, Time Life Books, 1981; "Success of Raid on Norway" in "Times of London" December 30, 1941, page 2. See more »
When Eric Toresen (Paul Muni) left his daughter at Mrs. Olav's house and went into the mountains, he left behind the jacket he arrived with. Later after coming back down from the mountain, and without returning to Mrs. Olav's place, he has his jacket on again. See more »
Not as good as EDGE OF DARKNESS (1943), but still entertaining...
Before William Woods' well-written novel THE EDGE OF DARKNESS was brought to the screen by Warner Bros. in 1943, John Farrow directed this interesting yet routine World War II propaganda film about courageous Norwegians under the heels of the Nazis for Columbia Studios a year earlier. The film lives up to its titleBritish and Norwegian commandos invade Norwegian soil in order to destroy a secret Nazi airfieldso it's worth watching.
Paul Muni delivers a solid performance as a kind Norwegian fisherman who plots to destroy the Nazi oppressors. The supporting characters, however, are cardboard cutouts compared to the complex characters in EDGE OF DARKNESS. Ray Collins plays a political gentleman who is tortured by the Nazis for his anti-Nazi views, Ann Carter (who later delivered a beautiful performance in 1944's THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE) plays Muni's little daughter, Sir Cedric Hardwicke plays a blustery admiral of the Royal Navy, Robert Coote plays a charming English soldier, and Lillian Gish is wasted in the cardboard role of Collins' wife. Alexander Knox plays the one-dimensional role of the Nazi commandant of the village, although Helmut Dantine would play a similar yet more complex role in EDGE OF DARKNESS. However, the urbane George MacReady, who regularly played villains in films like GILDA (1946) and Farrow's THE BIG CLOCK (1948), plays a good guy here for a change. Anna Lee, despite her fine acting in other films like HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941) and HANGMEN ALSO DIE! (1943), is somewhat cloying as Muni's love interest and Hardwicke's daughter. It's too bad that John Farrow, who was married to the lovable Irish actress Maureen O'Sullivan at the time, didn't cast his real-life wife in the role instead.
Farrow's direction of actors seems only competent yet his direction of cinematography, editing, and action scenes are superb. William C. Mellor's black-and-white cinematography, while not groundbreaking like Sidney Hickcox's imaginative cinematography in EDGE OF DARKNESS, is beautifully lit and uses tracking shots for maximum effect. The Canadian location shots of Vancouver Island help increase the film's authenticity. The editing is fast-paced and is similar to that of a Warner Bros. film at the time. The climactic battle on the airfield is awesome and is full of nice explosions of grounded Nazi airplanes and trucks. An interesting fact about the film is that Russian classical composer Igor Stravinsky, who composed the notorious ballet THE RITE OF SPRING (1913), originally composed the film's music score but it was rejected. Instead a saccharine yet Oscar-nominated score was composed by Louis Gruenberg and John Leipold. Stravinsky's unused score was later adapted into the stirring tone poem "Four Norwegian Moods."
However, COMMANDOS STRIKE AT DAWN is typical of the propaganda films that Hollywood churned out at the time. For example, all the German vehicles contain crudely painted swastikas that you would only find in such films. Despite the heavy propaganda overtones and shallow characterizations, this film is worth watching today mainly due its exciting action scenes.
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