Target Unknown (1951) Poster

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Based on Army Training Film
malcolmgsw1 October 2005
As one previous reviewer briefly mentioned this is based on an army training film.The film was made in 1944 by the First Motion Picture Unit of the Army Film Unit and called "Resisting Enemy Interrogation"(REI)The main difference between the two films is that the beginning and end are completely different.REI was a training film and it ended with a lecture from Lloyd Nolan.After being told that the raid had been a disaster he spends the last 5 minutes telling his audience"NEVER TALK".In this film there is about half an hour of daring do with a more positive outcome clearly more appropriate to a post war film.However for the time when the airmen are captive this film borrows almost in its entirety the script of REI.If you have a video/DVD machine then you can do what i did.Run one sequence of REI and then one sequence of this film.The words i assure you are identical.What i find most intriguing is the proposition that captured airmen could be falling for the tricks highlighted in this film and in REI.Were the crew so naive and where the Germans so sophisticated and urbane and clever?
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great war movie
gibsonc23 June 1999
This movie idea came from info tapes the Air Force showed pilots in case they were shot down. It shows how Nazis get crucial information from downed pilots that even the pilots don't know they know.
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Talk can be Dangerous
gordonl5626 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers

This one is an American war film put out by Universal-International Pictures. The source material used for the basis of the film is from a WW2 training film. Said training film was on how to resist interrogation if captured. The cast in this one includes, Mark Stevens, Don Taylor, Alex Nicol, Robert Douglas, Gig Young, Joyce Holden, James Best and Steven Geray.

The film is set in early 1944, and is about the aircrew of an American B-26 bomber. The ship has just returned from a mission where several of the squadron had been shot down. A couple more crash land back at the base in England. Morale is shot in the unit, and it takes another hit when told by the Commanding officer, Hugh Beaumont, that they are going back out in the afternoon.

Beaumont promises everyone a 48 hour leave upon their return. The B-26's are all going in for maintenance in preparation for a secret raid on a German fuel dump. They have moved in another bomber group with special personal for the raid.

Mark Stevens and his crew have the misfortune to be shot up during the afternoon raid over France. One of the crewmen killed. The survivors barely escape the bomber in time to safely parachute. The crew, one by one, are captured by the Germans and taken to a local Château. The Château is used to house captured Allied aircrews before transfer to a prison camp in Germany. The first to arrive at the holding area is the Captain, Mark Stevens.

The holding area is really a centre for a group of highly skilled German interrogation experts. Each of the American flyers is handled differently. Some are roughed up by Gestapo types, some put in a cell with a German posing as a fellow prisoner, and so on. All the men let slip little bits of info that the Germans piece together for a big picture.

The wounded man, James Best, is smooth talked by a pretty nurse, Joyce Holden, into giving some key info. The German officer in charge, Robert Douglas, with help from his number two, Gig Young, soon have enough details to guess at the upcoming raid's target, the fuel dump. Being of no further use, the American fliers are sent by train to Germany.

Stevens, Taylor and Nichol by now know they have all been played like a fiddle by the Germans. The three manage to pull an escape from the moving train. Taylor collects a back full of lead from a train guard as Stevens and Nichol, hoot foot it into the night. They hope to find some French underground types and get back to England.

Stevens and Nichol luck out and are soon hustled away by pretty underground member, Suzanne Dalbert. The pair discover that the Germans are moving the fuel to a nearby forest area. They need to get this info to their intelligence unit back in England.

Of course as luck would have it, the nearest underground radio is 40 miles away. The two stow away in the back of a truck heading in the right direction. They have been told about a bar in the town that has underground contacts. They hit the burg and stop by the bar. A German patrol now shows up wanting to see everyone's papers.

Nichol is gobbled up by the patrol while Stevens is pulled outside by the underground contact. A quick gun battle with several pursuing Nazis is needed before Stevens can get away. He is taken to the head of the local resistance cell.

The leader agrees to contact England with the news about the fuel depot being moved. They need to hurry because the raid is scheduled for that morning. Do they make the call in time?

While the film is not a world beater, it is not a waste of time either. There are plenty of B-26 Martin Marauder bombers on display. The excellent combat footage of said bombers is fantastic, most of which I had never seen before.

The director here is the always reliable, George Sherman. Sherman helmed quite a few watchable mid budget westerns, swashbucklers, war, and film noir. These would include, RELENTLESS, BLACK BART, LARCENY, SWORD IN THE DESERT, THE RAGING TIDE, BORDER RIVER and AGAINST ALL FLAGS.

Universal Pictures staple, Maury Gertsman was the director of photography.
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Clever war film
prw-822 March 2007
I watched the film today . I had no great hopes for it as I had never heard of it.

The Times said So so. On reading the other reports I watched it and was pleasantly surprised how good it was.

It was one of the cleverest war films I have seen because it discussed how the prisoners of war were asked questions.

The German interrogator said "They don't know they know" he followed this up with "There is no such thing as an innocent question and no such thing as a valueless statement"

The point was he was able to piece together from various comments that the prisoners made what was going on and what the next raid might be about. This was even though the prisoners did not know the details of the raids themselves.

A clever idea and well executed.

Also for a US film they did not show the British and French characters as clichés.

Worth watching a few times.
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" 'Allo, 'Allo"
ianlouisiana2 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Meanwhile,over at the Cafe Rene,Herr Flick of the Gestapo was conducting a thorough search for the stolen picture "Portrait of the Fallen Madonna With the Big Boobies"......... How the Germans lost the war I'll never know.Apparently the USAAF was composed of idiots who couldn't find their way across the channel without a telescope and a sniffer dog,whilst the Luftwaffe consisted of gimlet - eyed philosophers able to argue for hours about how many angels could be fitted on the head of a pin. The French were either girls with low - cut peasant blouses or beret - toting farmers hugger - mugger with Fritz. Mark Stevens is cast presumably for his slight resemblance to Cary Grant in the dark with the light behind him.His airforce officer is marginally less stupid than his companions and realises that his captors are trying to get information out of him. If this film is in any way based on fact,were I a German of a certain age I would demand a recount.
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Unintentionally hilarious
bruce-36929 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
As I watched this movie unfold(rather like a car crash in slow motion) I started to give the director,writer and cast excuses for the monumental ineptitude of the project.Was it because it was wartime propaganda?No ,the war having been over for 6 years.Would it be good for morale in post war austerity?No,knowing your pilots would tell a pretty nurse almost anything in exchange for a cigarette.The only sign of doubt at this course of action being a narrowing of the eyes immediately followed by bean-spilling when given an excuse a 10 year-old would see through. Only the comedy arrogance of the Nazis in telling the captured airmen,at every stage of their "interrrogation" what exactly they had or hadn't found out and their inability to see or hear anything unless it was 2 feet away from them,talking English and reacting like a pre-stunned steer gave our "heroes" the chance of ending up on the winning side.See it and laugh.
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Some good psychology, slightly unbelievable last half-hour
Marlburian30 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The major part of this film is an interesting psychological exercise in trying to extract information from shot-down American airmen, with Robert Douglas particularly good as the chief German interrogator. I suspect that if I played back some of the crucial scenes I might occasionally question his logic, but watching the film straight-through he's convincing. Half-a-century after the film was made, it's easy for the viewer to spot many of the traps he sets for his captives, some of whom seem very naive - but then they've been shot down, seen their buddies killed and themselves been injured.

When two of the PoWs escape they have only a few hours in which to warn their comrades that the Germans know their bombing target, but they're able to contact all the right people - albeit by accident - in occupied by France. It'll be no surprise to anyone that in a film of this type they succeed.

Gig Young shows early promise as the "nice guy" among the German interrogators.
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Dubbed, gotta be!
mailmck22 April 2002
Listen to the German Colonel and his weasly Leutnant. If that isn't Basil Rathbone dubbing Herr Oberst and Peter Lorre talking through the little guy, I'll turn in my deerstalker. And why wasn't Ward Cleaver given a credit? And why are the Germans transporting fuel in US Army deuce and a halfs? But Gig Young as Fred Reinhardt, good gig, guy. Makes you realize how the Germans are more like us than we'd like to think.
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