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In occupied France during the Franco-Prussian War, a young French laundress shares a coach ride with several of her condescending social superiors. But when a Prussian officer holds the coach over, social standings are leveled and integrity and spirit are put to the test. Written by
Ken Yousten <email@example.com>
Another oddity from Val Lewton based on two DeMaupassant stories...
SIMONE SIMON, who gained so much fame from her "Cat People" persona and a subsequent film called "Curse of the Cat People", appears here in an uneven costume drama adapted from two Guy DeMaupassant stories about class differences at the time of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 and a young woman who has to assert herself when the going gets rough. She shows spirit in her offbeat role and the cast is a good one, featuring JOHN EMERY, ALAN NAPIER, KURT KREUGER and JASON ROBARDS, SR.
The coach scene that takes up the first twenty minutes or so of the story is reminiscent of "Stagecoach" in which the characters behave snobbishly toward Claire Trevor, as the prostitute with a heart of gold. Here it's SIMONE SIMON as a laundress with her own sense of pride, refusing to deal with the Prussians or Germans on any level, not even willing to do their laundry. Only when she offers food and drink to the other passengers, do they begin to find any good in her, at least temporarily.
Her loyalty to France makes her resist the request of the Prussian officer, KURT KREUGER, to dine with them when the passengers must stay over at an inn. The other passengers get together and force her to humble her patriotism for the sake of letting them go on with their journey. She complies and the next day when they resume their journey, the others are ungrateful to her and treat her shabbily again. JOHN EMERY tells them off and leaves the coach to meet up with her. She refuses to accept his apology for not taking a stronger stand in the resistance movement but changes her mind later when he does prove to be heroic.
The resistance message seems to reflect the type of WWII propaganda films Hollywood churned out during this period, but the film is an odd mixture of costume drama and patriotism under fire.
Not exactly a ground breaker, but interesting, especially for fans of Simone Simon's screen persona. Just why this particular story interested Val Lewton, considering his background as a man who preferred making horror films, is not clear to me.
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