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I finally had an opportunity to see this largely "forgotten" film, one of my
favorites dealing in a mystical way with the afterlife. A remake of "Outward
Bound" ('30), it was updated to World War II and begins with an air raid in
which several people are unable to seek shelter. Afterwards, they find
themselves on a strange ship and only gradually come to realize they are all
dead--and about to be judged by a man called The Examiner (Sydney
Greenstreet). The disparate group of people include some of the dependable
Warner contract players: John Garfield, Eleanor Parker, Paul Henried, Faye
Emerson, Edmund Gwenn, Isobel Elmson and Sara Allgood.
Thoughtful and well written (though talky and showing its stage origins), it permits us to examine the passengers one by one as they reveal their fears and foibles--each having substantial roles in a series of vignettes that will lead to their ultimate destination--heaven or hell.
It's fascinating, handsomely produced amid low-key film noir lighting and the performances are all first-rate. John Garfield and Paul Henried give the strongest performances in the meatiest roles but the others are all more than competent, including the lovely Eleanor Parker.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold's score happens to be one of his personal "favorites" and I can certainly see why. It is melancholy, lyrical and mysterious--in keeping with the "otherworldly" elements of a film about passengers on their way to another world.
An oddly interesting film, thought provoking and well worth viewing. It's a wonder no one has produced a remake since the material lends itself to endless possibilities.
Paul Henreid portrays a character with a pretty young wife, determined
to leave the country and desperately needing an exit permit - sound
familiar? Perhaps so, but this isn't "Casablanca", it's a relatively
obscure film from 1944 deserving of a wider audience. "Between Two
Worlds" is a well constructed morality tale that reveals the lot of a
handful of souls on the way to their final destination aboard a ship
The wayward passengers come together as the vehicle en route to their trans-Atlantic ship is destroyed by a German World War II air raid bombing in London. Simultaneously, the distraught Henry Bergner (Henreid), unable to obtain passage for his wife Ann (Eleanor Parker) and himself, chooses suicide for both. Interestingly, the Bergner's are the only passengers that know from the beginning that they are dead, having chosen their fate. Their fellow passengers can't seem to remember recent events, complaining of fatigue and dizziness.
As one might expect, the characters are stereotypes - Thomas Prior (John Garfield) is a brash, cynical newspaperman; Maxine "Maxie" Russell (Faye Emerson) is a part time stage actress and full time gold digger. Pete (George Tobias) is heading back to America to be with his wife and yet unseen newborn son, who has already defied the odds by surviving three torpedo attacks as a serviceman. Genevieve (Isobel Elsom) is a snooty socialite with a very high opinion of herself, married to Benjamin (Gilbert Emery), a patient and unassuming man. Sara Allgood is Mrs. Midget, an odd name for a woman whose lot in life finds enjoyment in helping others. Appropriately, there's a religious man aboard, Reverend William (Dennis King), whose ambition is to meet new people, do new things and get a taste of adventure. And then there's Lingley, of Lingley Limited, who never lets you forget that his money can only be rivaled by his own self importance.
Edmund Gwenn is superb as the ship's steward with the unlikely moniker of Scrubby, whose job it is to deftly allow the passengers to understand their fate as they come to realize what happened to them. And on hand to pass final judgment is The Examiner, Sydney Greenstreet in a perfectly cast role.
If any fault is to be found with the film, it would be the early revelation of the passengers' fate; a little more exposition and buildup would have heightened the suspense. However the fates of the individuals are well suited to their demeanor in life, and are cleverly meted out by the astute Examiner.
This is a remake of the 1930 early-talkie "Outward Bound", which was
based on the hit 1925 stage play. This version updates the period from
the 1920's to the 1940's, and incorporates WW II elements into the
story---a totally unnecessary tactic; the original play was quite good
on its own and didn't need to have topical elements awkwardly
sandwiched in. In fact,one of its strengths was that the entire
unworldly experience seemed to take place in an unspecified time.
But this film has a very realistic beginning to it, and a war-related incident sets the plot in motion. The film's only serious blunder---though one that does not fatally affect it----is that we are tipped off as to what is really going on much too early in the film, in comparison to the 1930 film version, in which the characters realized their true situation at the same time as the audience did.
Aside from those objections, though, this is one of the few remakes which tops the original in nearly every department. Without exception, the actors in this version outdo the stiff, primitive early-talkie performances of their predecessors, and this may well be the only film in which Paul Henreid, normally not the most charismatic actor, gives a finer performance than the then-awkward Douglas Fairbanks,Jr. did in the same role in the 1930 film.
Especially outstanding are Edmund Gwenn as the ship's steward, Isobel Elsom as a rich, elderly, bitchy woman, Sydney Greenstreet as a mysterious character whose identity will not be revealed here, and Sara Allgood in one of the most sensitive performances of her career (she acts rings around Beryl Mercer from the 1930 version). George Coulouris, a reliable villain in those days (he was Orson Welles' nasty guardian in "Citizen Kane") is sinister and pompous as a greedy tycoon. And John Garfield is excellent in the Leslie Howard role, altered some to fit Garfield's tough, bitter on-screen persona rather than Howard's ultra-sophisticated, debonair one. (Garfield,though,does not go as berserk when he finds out the truth as Howard so hilariously did in the 1930 version.)
Although much of the dialogue in the first half has been changed and perhaps made slightly less "literary", the second half,which features Sydney Greensteet, is quite faithful to the earlier film and the stage play. Erich Wolfgang Korngold's music runs through nearly every scene, and, although verging toward the bombastic and melodramatic at times, lends plenty of atmosphere to the story.
One unfortunate aspect is that the photography in this version never becomes as eerie as that in the 1930 version, with its striking light and darkness effects. But none of these faults should keep you away from this film, which deserves far better than its relative obscurity in comparison to the other great Warner Bros. classics as well as other films dealing with the afterlife.
Between Two Worlds was a 1944 remake of the 1930 Leslie Howard film, Outward Bound, which was a hit on Broadway. This allegorical tale about death was the perfect World War II film and boasted a super ensemble cast--each and every cast member is wonderful. The stars, John Garfield, Paul Henreid, Eleanor Parker, and Sydney Greenstreet, give top-notch performances, but the film also boasts high points in the careers of Isobel Elsom, Faye Emerson, Dennis King, Sara Allgood, Gilbert Emery, and Edmund Gwenn. Each actor gets a share of the spotlight as they slowly discover their fate and face the final judgment. Nicely directed with a good set, although the music picks up bits from Casablanca. Moody and yes maybe talky by today's standards, but very effective and moving. My favorite is haughty Isobel Elsom, the great British actress who came to Hollywood in the mid 30s, after being one of England's biggest silent-film stars. She has the role Alison Skipworth played in the 1930 version, but her imperious demeanor takes on a whole new meaning in 1944, set against the war. This is the kind of film that can't be made any more, and when film-makers try, their efforts sink from view very quickly. Powerful and touching film filled with great moments. This one is a must see.
I haven't seen this movie for decades, but I still remember it well. It has
a haunting 'twilight zone' twist to it and is very entertaining. I'm
surprised, in this in this 'post Titanic megahit' time, that an ocean liner
backdrop to an eerie, romantic story has not been recycled as was 'Death
Takes a Holiday'. It might even be re-incarnated as a 'Fantasy Island' type
TV series with new passengers every week.
You expect justice and good to win out in movies of this era. It's nice they left enough 'wiggle' room to do the right thing. And I think people take a comfort from a good movie showing us going on after death. It's a trip we all hope to take one day....
Before a London air raid occurs, several people wait to book passages
for an ocean liner that will take them to America. After the air raid,
they find themselves onboard a mysterious ocean liner occupied only by
a kind old steward (Edmund Gwenn). Gradually the truth is revealedthey
are all dead, the ocean liner is Purgatory, and an angelic being called
The Examiner (Sydney Greenstreet) is later coming aboard to judge their
individual fates. Who will go to Heaven and who will go to Hell?
Although not available on DVD or video at present, this special film pops up occasionally on Turner Classic Movies. And the film is indeed specialit contains a fascinating and thought-provoking plot, an eerie atmosphere that perfectly accents the film, and an otherworldly music score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The excellent cast along the journey includes the crafty John Garfield, the delightful Sara Allgood, the snobbish George Coulouris, and the compassionate Gilbert Emery. Special mention should go to the sensitive Paul Henreid and the gorgeous Eleanor Parker as a married couple who commit suicide at the beginning of the film. Parker was only 22 when this film was made and she looks fantastic here. Erich Wolfgang Korngold's score, although reaching high melodrama at times, is one of his best and was his own favorite film score. The marvelous love theme between Henreid and Parker was later used in the cello concerto in DECEPTION (1946), a film which was also scored by Korngold.
However, be warned that the characters are stereotypes and the film veers towards high melodrama at times due to some corny lines and occasionally overwhelming music on the soundtrack. Some viewers might be offended by the religious themes of the film, since the presentation of the afterlife is part of the Gospel According to Warner Brothers. If that's the case for you, just ignore the themes and enjoy yourself!
Since this film is a morality tale, the film has deeply touching moments. One of my favorite moments is when Paul Henreid discovers a grand piano onboard the liner not long after he is dead. Also, the film's themes are timeless although some viewers might not agree with them. The film may be preachy but the theme of making your own Heaven or Hell in life suits me fine.
Despite the high melodrama and the fact that director Edward A. Blatt directed only three movies, this fascinating wartime fantasy is well worth watching.
It's been years since I saw this on television, but it's one of the films I remember best. The plot deals with the most common cultural and spiritual views of the afterlife in a fascinating, allegorical way; it also deals with moral concerns about the way people live their lives. John Garfield is great, as usual. Some of the most wonderful, familiar character actors of old Hollywood bring much heart and integrity to well-defined roles.
Terrific film, a remake of 1930's "Outward Bound", has a disparate group of people (John Garfield, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet and Eleanor Parker among them) on-board a mysterious ocean-liner, unaware they are actually souls being transported to their final destinations. Solemn fantasy is talky, sometimes heavy, but extremely well-acted and occasionally fascinating. Garfield's moment of reckoning is an amazing bit of dramatic acting, and director Edward Blatt is both subtle and sneaky with this fantastic material (it's a very classy product with no camp overtones). It unfolds slowly, but viewers who stick with it will find this a memorable melodrama. *** from ****
Interesting little film about a bunch of very diverse people dying and being judged whether to go to Heaven or Hell. The idea isn't new, and the script is way too talky, but the beautiful setting and superb acting more than compensates. With the exception of Garfield, Henreid and Greenstreet, there are no big names in the cast, but everyone is good and they all get their moments to shine. Worth seeing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The basic story stays the same as Sutton Vane created for the stage in
the 1920s. A pair of young lovers agree to die together - the young man
sealing their apartment and turning on the gas so that death will be
relatively painless. Suddenly the couple find themselves on a fog
enshrouded ocean liner with a handful of people on board. These include
a vicar, a steward, a snobby socialite, a millionaire mover and shaker,
a cynical young man, and a kindly little old woman. As the story
unfolds we realize these folk are dead - and they are headed for a
final destination on that boat. They will, however, like all good
travelers, have to be okay-ed or sent to the proper place by a
"customs" official. Only the proper place here will be heaven or hell,
and it is based on the behavior of the various parties in disembarking.
For the custom's official is an agent of God.
People should not think that the concept of a person being measured for a good and benevolent or a bad and malevolent afterlife is only from the early Christians. The Jews and the Greeks did not think much about afterlife - Jewish "Sheol" was sought of vague and colorless at best. Later (I suspect) a day when the Messianic Age would begin was adopted to buck up the Jews in the face of problems on earth - but this was not an original concept with them. In fact, in the book of Samuel of the Old Testament, using a witch to contact the dead was considered a mortal sin for both using a witch and for disturbing the dead. The Greeks pictured a similar drab afterlife where the ghosts of the dead lived - Homer had a chapter about the dead in their afterlife in THE ODYSSEY. You have to go back to ancient Egypt to find a view of the afterlife that had a place for heaven and hell. The heart of the person was weighed on a scale, and if the same as a feather the person went to a happy afterlife (with all the comforts he enjoyed in his social class on earth). But if it weighed down on the scale, the person was doomed, and given over to a monster (a crocodile) to be eaten.
When Sutton Vane wrote his play it was the ruminations of a veteran from the killing fields of World War I, and the seeming collapse of Western values. He found the answer in intense Christian theology. But along came the Second World War, and the story (while still strong) was updated. The deaths of the majority of the passengers is from a German bombing raid. Now George Tobias was added as an American Merchant Seaman as a passenger, and the millionaire (a pompous figure played by Montague Love in the original film) is a ruthless cutthroat in the hands of George Coulouris. Coulouris has a mistress (Faye Emerson) but he is really too self-centered to have a satisfactory relationship with anyone. The lovers in the original were British, but here it is a foreign alien (Paul Henried) and an American girl (Eleanor Parker). Leslie Howard was a soured idealist in the original, while John Garfield was simply a cynic here. Beryl Mercer's relatively restrained performance in the original was matched by Sarah Allgood here. Finally the snobby Alison Skipworth was replaced by Isobel Elsom (similarly demanding and snobby) but Gilbert Emory is her put-upon, gentle husband here.
There are some fine moments in this film - one of my favorites is when Dennis King as the Vicar remembers a prayer from when he was a child and recites it to the other passengers just before their judge comes aboard. He does it without any outlandish emoting (a far cry from some of his weaker moments in his starring role in THE VAGABOND KING fifteen years before). It may have been his best scene in films.
The judge in the original was Dudley Digges, who certainly gets down to business with typical smoothness and care. Here it's Dudley's successor Sidney Greenstreet. Playing a nice fellow here (which is how he is one of God's agents) he has a choice moment or two when dealing with the passengers - making sure that Garfield gets a degree of stunned humility before he enters heaven accompanied by Allgood, but also dealing with the nastier characters in typically effective Greenstreet manner. Whenever Sidney faced George Coulouris one's sympathies were with Greenstreet (Coulouris always was such a contemptible type against Sydney, even in THE VERDICT). Here it reaches the finest moment between them. Coulouris is used to getting his way with everyone because he's "Lingley of Lingley Ltd." He tries that here, figuring the British class system has been grafted into heaven. Greenstreet tells him he knows and to shut up. Then Edmund Gwenn (the steward - a typically good performance too) starts leading Coulouris away to ... err descend the gangplank, Coulouris demands to know what happened to his question and answer period. "You've had it.", says Greenstreet. "When?", demands Coulouris. "When you said you were "Lingley" of "Lingley Ltd.", replies a stern Greenstreet. He then recounts the unscrupulous business career of Coulouris, who actually does try to defend it (he started in poverty and clawed his way up). But he finds nobody to defend him, not even Emerson.
Greenstreet also teaches Elsom a lesson about her social snobbery. She is to live in a fine house - only she can't leave it and she'll be all alone. Emory, however, is reunited with his old friends.
One can say that the views of the screen writers was simplistic, but in cases of allegory or religious drama simplicity becomes a virtue. BETWEEN TWO WORLDS, like the earlier OUTWARD BOUND, remains a very worthy film to watch.
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