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Somewhat fictionalized account of the destruction of the village of Lidice in Czechoslovakia and the events leading up to it. In 1942, the Allies parachuted a Czech resistance fighter into the area. He quickly reunites with his former girlfriend and many of the villagers who knew him from before the war. The Nazis are evil however and under the command of Reinhardt Heydrich rule the country with an iron fist, arbitrarily arresting innocents and charging them with fictitious crimes. When Heydrich is severely wounded in a roadside attack - he dies three days later - Henrich Himmler orders the destruction of Lidice. The men are herded into a churchyard where they sing defiantly as they are shot down, the village is set aflame and the women are sent to concentration camps. The town itself is leveled. Written by
This film is starts with a deceptive title. Reinhart Heydrich was many things, but mad as in clinically insane was not one of them. In fact among his peers he was known as the man with an 'iron heart'. Cold blooded efficiency in some of the nastiest butchery ever seen on this planet was his stock in trade.
And John Carradine played him that way. In many ways Heydrich was the archetype Aryan superman that Hitler lauded, but this guy scared Hitler and all the other top Nazis.
MGM made this film and even though it is a quickie B picture hurriedly put together to take advantage of current events of the war, Hitler's Madman has that tiffany type gloss that MGM product was noted for.
As was reported and at the time not reported fully, how could it have been since we had little access to the news from the Nazi point of view. But word got out about the bloody reprisals made against the Czech people whom Heydrich was governing even from behind the lines. Lidice was razed to the ground as it was the location of the assassination. If anything we could only guess how bad it was.
There are three other interesting portrayals to note. First is Howard Freeman as Heydrich's superior, Heinrich Himmler. William Shirer said that he looked about as frightening as a schoolmaster and that's how Freeman does him as well. His scene with the dying Heydrich is classic as he tells Heydrich he's going out a hero for the Fatherland and Heydrich just doesn't want to go.
Then there's Edgar Kennedy whom I never knew doing anything else but being the slow burn comedian. He plays a cynical hermit who shunned Czech society, but has no use for the Nazis either. But being and choosing to live alone makes him better able to adapt.
My favorite however was Ludwig Stossel who plays the German mayor of Lidice who is a proud Nazi, but who also hears about the loss of his two sons in Russia. Still when Heydrich is attacked, he's arrested for not doing enough to keep the people down and appreciative of their new masters. All of Stossel's protests about what a good party man he is and how loyal to the Fuehrer he is, avail him naught.
One big star is in this, but Ava Gardner is an extra somewhere in the crowd of Lidice citizens. I couldn't spot her, but you might have better luck.
Despite the deceptive title Hitler's Madman does hold up well for today's audiences. A film about Heydrich's whole career would be a fascinating one for today's audience.
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