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Brilliant little anti-Nazi morality film with surprise ending.
This is a "little" film - very tightly acted and directed with a relatively small central cast. Paul Lukas plays Martin Schulz, an American-German art dealer who moves his family back to Germany to deal directly in European art and is soon swept into the Nazi way of life. Their recognition of him inflates his ego - he is soon turning his back on his Jewish American partner. When that partner's daughter, an aspiring actress, is revealed as being Jewish she is hunted down and shot on Schulz's doorstep as he bars her entry. Then he starts to receive ominous letters in code from his American partner which the Nazi censoring bureau believe to reveal espionage on Schulz's behalf. His slow degradation and then realization that after all have abandoned him, he is left alone and imprisoned in his own home are harrowingly portrayed. There is a twist surprise ending that is the final nail in the coffin. The cinematography deserved an Oscar nom - it is one of the finest examples of black and white composition in film history - one superbly framed and lit shot after another. The evocative dramatic score did earn an Oscar nom (deservedly) and the Art Direction was similarly (though not deservedly) honored. It is amazing that the Academy failed to recognize the cinematography and also failed to recognize the original story and screenplay with nominations. It is tautly and tightly written (despite Leonard Maltin's dislike of it) and packs a wallop. This is one of the forgotten gems of the forties - a superlative creative effort that deserves a revival and a new audience.
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