|Index||9 reviews in total|
To begin, "They Met in the Dark" is a mystery that is seamlessly turned into a WWII espionage film, all the while remaining a film about two attractive and courageous people gradually falling in love. Analysts of recent vintage who try to watch the film, I suggest, routinely fail to understand its strengths and make too much of its very few weaknesses. It also confuses them because it is a film directed by a Czech, made with British actors, and yet its style is superior U.S. 1940s narrative of unusual clarity, swiftness of pace and occasional brilliance. The story involves a young naval officer who is cashiered from the service under suspicion of incompetence (James Mason) and who manages to become involved with a young woman (Joyce Howard) who finds a body and has cause to suspect him of having been the murderer. Following parallel paths--she to clear herself of suspicion in the case and he trying to find the truth about how his career came to grief over his botched assignment at sea--he tries to protect her while she is busy eluding him. The clues lead them both to a Dance Academy cum talent agency, which is really a nest of spies, wherein a quintet of villains has been manipulating innocents and finding a way to extract secret information from British naval officers, such as that knowledge those loss wreaked havoc on Mason's life. The last portion of the film, maintaining the light-hearted tone carried out throughout the proceedings, becomes an anti-espionage caper led by Mason and a fellow officer, leading to a very satisfying conclusion. Carl Lamac (as Karel Lamac) directed with a fluid and amazingly adept camera style, handling varying sorts of indoor and outdoor, group and chase, two-shot and nightclub scenes with extreme skill. Marcel Hellman produced, with music by Ben Frankel, outstanding cinematography by Otto Heller, art direction by Norma G. Arnold and period dance arrangements by Philip Bruchel. The screenplay was adapted from the oft-imitated novel "The Vanished Corpse" by Anthony Gilbert. Others involved in the screenplay included Basil Bartlett, Anatole de Grunwald, Victor MacLure, Miles Malleson, and James Seymour. Phyllis Stanley is outstanding as a singer, David Farrar and Edward Rigby are Mason's closest confederates. The evil quintet are portrayed by Ronald Ward, powerful Tom Walls as the leader, capable Karel Stepanek, Eric Mason, and Ronald Chesney, aided by Walter Crisham and Betty Warren. Brefni O'Rourke plays a police Inspector, with Kynaston Reeves, Terence de Marney, Robert Sansom, Patricia Medina and Peggy Dexter in supporting roles. As the young woman caught up in intrigue, Joyce Howard is far better here than she had been in the much darker "The Night Has Eyes"; though she lacks some voltage, she is attractive, and more than adequate. As the hero, James Mason gets to essay a great variety of interesting scenes, all of which he performs with convincing and skillful art throughout. He wins the girl in this one, but only after playing a variety of dramatic, comedic and challenging scenes; and as usual; he is able to sustain his character throughout the proceedings and make everyone around him look better than they do in the film at any other time. Comparing this delightful film to many routine program films of the war years, I suggest any critic worth his salt would have to applaud the success of this often brilliant entertainment. This is the sort of film people with a positive sense of life used to be able to make; I find it to be one within which complex story elements are made clear and scene follows scene with both logic and a continual sense of discovery. This is a very underrated noir adventure with most successful comedy used to advance the plot at every turn. Recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have just read Patricia Medina Cotten's book entitled "Laid Back In
Hollywood" (1998)and was anxious to see the wife of the late Joseph Cotten
when she was an actress, preferably in the 1940's when she was at her most
glamorous.I chanced upon this title "They Met In the Dark" (1944) after
searching through her titles for sale on Imdb.com.I have never seen this
film on UK tv, so as I like all of James Mason's films, (his voice is so
unique), I obtained a VHS video copy of this film from
Patricia plays Mary, a manacurist girlfriend of James Mason and appears at
the beginning of the film but I was sorry to see her demise in the next
reel! The plot sees Mason a naval commander found guilty of negligence in
not acting under orders from the high command in the merchant Navy during
WWII, and losing one of His Majesty's cargo ships as a result of enemy
action.Mason claims he was acting under revised orders but cannot furnish
the necessary proof to the court marshall tribunal.He is determined to
his innocence and is told that if he wishes to see his girlfriend, to meet
her at a nearby cottage.Once there, he meets the film's heroine, Joyce
Howard, who thinks Mason is the killer as she too has seen the body of
upstairs.She rushes off to report the murder but when the police arrive at
the cottage and investigate, no body! Joyce is accused of the very serious
wartime crime of wasting police time.The plot then moves to Liverpool as
there was a card with the inscription, "Child's Theatrical Agency",
Liverpool, clutched in the deceased's hand. Mason "palms this off" at the
cottage as it lies on the floor, so Joyce Howard cannot even show this as
evidence to the police who get even more annoyed with her.The two
actors have an off and on relationship throughout most of the film as
is mutual suspicion between them.They become involved with fifth
who are seeking to obtain vital information for Germany about the
departure/destination and time of the next convoy, commanded by its
leader played by David Farrar (who later played the squire, Jack Reddin,
"Gone to Earth" (1950)).
I won't provide a spoiler but this is perfect Sunday afternoon watching
those like me who love classic 1940's films, especially James Mason fans
are unfamiliar with this title.I gave it 3/5 stars.
The career that James Mason had before being discovered by Hollywood
was quite prolific. Thanks to TCM, audiences have had the opportunity
to see some of his British films. This one, "They Met in the Dark," is
a 1943 noir, and has both elements of drama and humor. The film begins
with a trial, after which, found guilty of treason, Richard Heritage
(Mason) is stripped of rank and thrown out of the Navy. He sets out,
with one of his crew who believes in him, to prove his innocence. He
backtracks, repeating his actions from the day he was arrested.
He finds one woman (Patricia Medina) dead, another woman (Joyce Howard) positive that he had something to do with it, and a talent agent (Tom Walls) who has some interesting acts on his roster as well as a sophisticated singer (Phyllis Stanley).
Mason is handsome, elegant, and vital in the lead role. He handles the lighter moments very well and has lots of charm. It's easy to see why he eventually went to Hollywood. Stanley does some nice singing, and Ronald Chesney plays a great harmonica.
Different and enjoyable, with a good plot and British atmosphere that will keep the viewer interested.
This is an entertaining if uninspired wartime espionage yarn. It contains a fine and energetic performance by James Mason, full of vigour and fully believing in what he is doing. He even manages to deliver convincingly the inane line to Joyce Howard, the heroine, 'I love you', despite the fact that he barely knows her and could not possibly love her. The romantic elements of this story are too ludicrous for comment. This is the third and mercifully the last of the story ideas of Basil Bartlett which were filmed. (His 'Secret Mission' was so terrible it was one of the worst films ever made.) Sir Basil was the stepfather of my friend Annabel. Sorry, Annabel. There is a strong Czech component to the film. The director, Karel Lamac, was a Czech refugee, and apart from Mason, the main performance is by the talented Czech refugee actor, Karel Stepanek, who does extremely well, as usual, and raises the tone considerably. Joyce Howard's fluttery helplessness and bone-headed character may have been typical of women in 1943, but God have mercy on us poor viewers. A spectacular element in this film, which makes it worth seeing, is the incredible harmonica playing by Ronald Chesney, who only appeared in three films and is featured a lot here. Larry Adler eat your heart out (if Larry were still here, that is). Alvar Liddell, the famous wartime radio announcer, makes his first film appearance here, for all of ten seconds. At least Finlay Currie got 20 seconds. Someone savagely cut this film prior to release, as chasms occur in the continuity of fairly mammoth proportions. It is 95 minutes and must have been 110 when the director delivered it. This will keep an undemanding viewer entertained on a rainy afternoon. I had to get the DVD from Germany (where it is known as 'Spionagering'), turn off the dubbed German soundtrack, and listen to the original, which is preserved. The things one does to see these rarities!
Reading the synopsis of They Met In The Dark I was expecting quite a
different film. The plot outline made it sound incredibly serious and
this was wartime Great Britain.
Instead I got a rather lighthearted treatment of the plight of courtmartialed Naval Commander James Mason. Seems as though he was given a Mickey Finn and left with false orders in his pocket that led to his ship being sunk by the Nazis. Now cashiered from the Royal Navy, Mason's looking for answers.
So is Joyce Howard who is over from Canada looking for her girlfriend who has disappeared. She finds the girlfriend's corpse with Mason in a mysterious house.
After this They Met In The Dark is a variation on what Alfred Hitchcock did much better with The Thirty Nine Steps. In fact the method used by the bad guy spies for transmitting messages involves a theatrical performer.
I guess I'm not used to seeing James Mason in material as light as this. He and Howard do have some good chemistry. When he would do Hitchcock in North By Northwest he was not the light leading man there.
Not one of Mason's classic films, but something different.
A rather fishy intrigue going at any lengths to cause as much confusion as possible, as it basically only consists of loose ends all over, but it all starts at sea in the second world war, then proceeds to a court martial where James Mason appears to be convicted and dismissed from service, whereupon he shaves his beard and tries to get hold of a girl 'Mary' who has some awful things to tell him, which she never gets a chance to, as the old lorn house she has made an appointment with him in is empty except for a dead girl with a mysterious paper note clutched in her hand, which body is discovered by another girl, leading them to some circle of spies disguised as an entertainment company with mind readers, harmonica players and another singing girl, while James Mason is more interested in one girl than another, or is it the other way around? Anyway, there is nothing wrong with the acting or the intrigue-making, James Mason is always worth enjoying, but that's about all in this film - the death mystery in the desert house provides the only excitement, which never is satisfied, as the body disappears and never is recovered... Is it a comedy, a satire, just an entertainment made for kicks, is it seriously meant at all, or was it just made to fill some gap? The film inspires as many questions as an almost total lack of answers, but it provides at least some momentary entertainment...
"They Met in the Dark" is like the first draft of a Hitchcock film,
before the better plotting, interesting camera-work, and Hitchcock wit
is added. In fact, it's a blend of "The 39 Steps" and "The Lady
Vanishes." With many of the same elements:
Man and woman meet during a mysterious incident. Check. They are forced to stay on the run together. Check. The "McGuffin" is a secret message about the military. Check. The secret is conveyed by a music hall entertainer. Check. The unlikely couple end up in love. Check.
It's interesting to see the difference between a perfectly fine movie and a great one. Hitchcock created striking lighting effects, innovative camera moves, and darker, more menacing threat.
"They Met in the Dark" is a perfectly charming diversion and a nice, little movie. But pales in comparison to the Hitchcock films of the same era.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** We see an almost unidentifiable looking James Mason
wearing what looks like a cheap clip-on beard as British Naval officer
Richard Heritage get canned from the Royal Navy for having his ship
with all aboard sunk by a Nazi U-Boat because of not following the
instructions he was given. It turns out that the orders that Heritage
was given was switched by a pro-German spy while he was having a few
drinks at a local pub.
It's when Heratige tracks down the mysterious but now dead bar girl at a sleazebag hotel in the country he runs into Canadian Laura Verity, Joyce Howard,who was visiting her sick uncle at the very same hotel room who feels that he in fact murdered her. This has Laura on the run feeling that she'll end up being Heritage's next victim. It doesn't take long for Heritage to convince Laura with his good looks and British manners, as well as puppy dog brown eyes, that he's on the up and up and not the cold blooded killer that she thinks he is. It's then that Laura with Heritage's urging who then gets a job as a singer and dancer at the place that the murdered bar girl last worked for "The Child Talent Agency" run by Christopher Child, Tom Well. It's Well who was using it as cover for his Nazi Liverpool spy ring!
***SPOILERS**** Not much if any action for a film supporting the allied war effort at the height of WWII but more like a 1930's screwball comedy instead.It's later in the movie that were told, by the Royal Navy officials, that Heritage was in fact an innocent stooge made to look like he screwed things up so the Nazis won't take him seriously. The fact that Laura came into the picture or movie made things that much more complicated for the British who now had two people to save from the Nazis one-Richard Heritage- who had some idea of what was going on in the movie and another-Laura Verity-who was totally clueless!
P.S Breath taking performance by the great Ronald Chesley who steals the show as he blows everyone away and off their feet as the film's show stopping main attraction "Max the Mouth" the wild & crazy harmonica player.
This spy film seems to have used every cliché from spy films made earlier in World War 2.In particular it seems to have taken much of the story line of "Let George Do It".In particular it uses the encoding of messages into music.There is the fake court martial ling of Mason,the drugging of a signals officer and a spy ring in a port,and of course the obligatory missing corpse.All done in a most lacklustre fashion.At just over 90 minutes the story drags along.Compare it with Hitchcocks " Saboteur" made the same year in Hollywood.It looks as if the film was originally longer but was cut before release.i was looking forward to seeing George Robey but his scenes as a pawnbroker were obviously cut.I think that Mason should have based his character on Formby's so he could have ended the film with a cheerful "turned out nice again".
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