A group of French soldiers during WWII are captured by Nazis troops and sent to a military prison. There they will have to make use of his best resources to keep alive... and sane, while at the same time scheming a way out.
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With the onset of World War II, Frenchmen from all walks of life enlist in the army. The war is short-lived however as the Nazis quickly defeat them and Marshall Petain signs a peace agreement with the invaders. The troops surrender but rather that being repatriated to their homes as expected, they all find themselves in a military prison. Conditions are difficult with little food and poor medical conditions. The men resist as best they can and for some, like Paul, they are prepared to spend time in solitary confinement and be subjected to beatings if need be. For others, such as Duval, collaboration with their Nazi jailers is the route to an easier life. The men find solace in the company of Father Sebastian, a priest who was also in the army. He counsels them wisely and in the case of Paul, gives him strength to face the daily challenge of simply living. When Paul gets an opportunity however, he helps his fellow prisoners escape. When they liberate a village, they all realize that ... Written by
Basically the story of the French resistance during the early '40s when the Nazis overtook France, THE CROSS OF LORRAINE is a forerunner of films like STALAG 17, but without the humor. Instead, it's a straightforward dramatic tale of the harsh treatment meted out to the French POWs in a German prison camp.
There are no real surprises in the plot--you know from the beginning that there will be an escape plan being hatched by JEAN PIERRE AUMONT, who takes over when the former translator/informer HUME CRONYN meets his fate at the hands of prisoners. Aumont and GENE KELLY have the leading male roles and both give earnest performances in this gritty drama directed by Tay Garnett.
Although it appears to be a low-budget film, there's a splendid supporting cast including SIR CEDRIC HARDWICKE, RICHARD WHORF, PETER LORRE (as a despicable German sergeant), WALLACE FORD and Joseph CALLEIA.
Film is engrossing all the way through but suffers from an ending that pushes the propaganda envelope too far as the French resistance overcomes the Nazi recruiters while Aumont and Kelly take aim with machine guns to help destroy a bunch of bad Nazis.
Summing up: A flag waving tribute to the French resistance, it's well done for most of the way but that ending is too over-the-top to be taken seriously.
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