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The Master Race (1944)

Approved | | Drama, War | 22 September 1944 (USA)
When allied troops liberate a small battle-scarred Belgium town in 1944 the American and British commanders do all they can to help the war-weary people back on their feet. There are mental... See full summary »

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(screenplay), (screenplay) (as Anne Froelick) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
...
Helena
...
Andrei
...
Nina
Morris Carnovsky ...
Old Man Bartoc
...
Frank
...
Altmeier
Helen Beverly ...
Mrs. Varin
...
William Forsythe
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Katry
...
Sergeant O'Farrell (as Richard Nugent)
...
Schmidt (as Louis Donath)
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John
...
Baby (as Ghislaine Perreau)
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Storyline

When allied troops liberate a small battle-scarred Belgium town in 1944 the American and British commanders do all they can to help the war-weary people back on their feet. There are mental and physical wounds to heal, fields to plough, the church to rebuild. But a top Nazi, knowing the War is lost, has infiltrated the town and is fostering dissent and disunity. Written by Jeremy Perkins <jwp@aber.ac.uk>

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The dramatic shock of the century!

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Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved
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Release Date:

22 September 1944 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Raça Superior  »

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(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Trivia

"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on Januray 15, 1945 with George Coulouris and Helen Beverly reprising their film roles. See more »

Goofs

The British officer Captain William Forsythe gives a palm down American style salute. See more »

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User Reviews

 
THE MASTER RACE (Herbert J. Biberman, 1944) ***
25 June 2008 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

Director Biberman is remembered today, if at all, for being one of The Hollywood Ten – film people who defied the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and ended up in prison: consequently, his career numbered very few films – two ‘B’ thrillers made previous to this and two more (albeit higher-profile) titles after it; I myself had watched the best-regarded of the lot, SALT OF THE EARTH (1954), some time ago.

The two films clearly state where his political sympathies lie – given their celebration of collectivism during periods of turmoil (in the case of THE MASTER RACE, it obviously deals with WWII and, specifically, the ferreting of Nazi criminals and local collaborationists in Belgium once the Allies turn up to liberate the country). Unsurprisingly, all of this gives way to a lot of speechifying – though the war elements render the whole more palatable than was the case with SALT OF THE EARTH (which concerned a prolonged strike at a New Mexico mine-field); the narrative, in fact, throws in everything but the kitchen sink (with plenty of twists and turns along the way) – and, while the characters may come across as stereotypes at times, solidly professional production values (the film was made by RKO at its prime) carry it through.

The cast is modest yet effective – principally George Coulouris in one of his best roles as the Nazi Colonel (the film starts off with him disbanding his chain of command when it becomes clear that the Germans were losing the war) who passes himself off as the patriotic brother of a traitor who has been executed (in this respect, it’s the Hollywood equivalent of Britain’s WENT THE DAY WELL? [1942]). The latter’s surviving wife and daughter are having a hard time coping with this fact, being themselves under a cloud of suspicion – and the German is thus able to observe both sides with relative ease (since he obviously now professes to denounce Nazism, while at the same time rousing gullible locals into resisting the Allies’ help by making them out to be just another group of tyrants!). The more prominent among the ranks of the latter are Stanley Ridges as the American Major in command of the country’s reconstruction and Carl Esmond as a rugged but cheerful Russian officer with medical experience.

One other important female character is that played by Osa Massen, a local girl who succumbed to the advances of a German officer – a relationship which has even produced a child – while her fiancé and brother (Lloyd Bridges, himself in love with the niece of the man Coulouris has replaced!) went to war. There’s much conflict and heartache at the core of such sensitive issues – but understanding, forgiveness and hope for the future eventually prevail. Incidentally, we also get a repentant Nazi (now being held in the same concentration camp where the Belgians had been incarcerated not long before) and it is he who brings about Coulouris’ downfall; the latter had already committed murder and also ordered the destruction of the prison, ostensibly as an act of retribution against the Nazis but really to blame the locals for it – thus causing discord between them and the Allies! The film remains interesting today for its uncompromising and intimate look at the ravages of war, made with relatively few concessions to Hollywood conventions – displaying instead courage, conviction and a passion rarely felt in this type of genre offering.


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