Target Unknown (1951)
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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.
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.
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.