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It's always a lot of fun to watch Anthony Hopkins struggle through mediocre films made before his Merchant-Ivory days & the breakthrough of "The Silence Of The Lambs," & he is by far the best thing about this made-for-television remake of the 1948 Ingrid Bergman-Charles Boyer film. The Remarque novel, written long after his success with "All Quiet On The Western Front," seems to want to contrast the Hopkins character, Dr. Ravic, in his Paris surroundings with his love affair with Joan Madou (played here by a hopelessly miscast Lesley-Anne Down in the Bergman role). But I honestly don't think the story needed the love affair; in such a time of tension & grief, love is always a cliche, & this story isn't good or strong enough to rise above the inherent corniness of the theme.
Hopkins, as Ravic, is a German citizen who helped Jewish people escape from the murderous anti-Semitic Fatherland. He spent time in a concentration camp & has a horrible scar as a reminder. He lives without papers in Paris, under a false name, aware always that the minute the gendarmes near him he could be sent away or imprisoned as an illegal alien. He dreams of the day he can revenge himself on the Gestapo officer who sent him away, who tortured his friends & who tortured & raped his only love, Sybil. (In this version, Donald Pleasance plays Haake, the Nazi murderer, & does a creepy job, especially when Ravic meets him later & he doesn't recognize his own handiwork.) One night, on a bridge, Ravic encounters Joan Madou, & he rescues her from a possible suicide attempt. Madou understandably latches on to Ravic, & at some point a romance begins.
At this point in the plot summary, you are not required to suppress a yawn; it sounds like something you've heard a million times before & you'll see a million times more. My thoughts while watching this movie were simply this: the strength of the story - German exile trapped in doomed Paris on the eve of German invasion looking for revenge while trying to stay alive - didn't need the love story to propel it. Surely there were other opportunities for Hopkins to show his human side than to act jealous when Down confesses to have other lovers! His relationship with the Russian exile, played with vodka-gulping panache by Frank Finlay, had a reality to it that the walks on the beach in Normandy with Down could barely compare with.
Hopkins, of course, had his greatest work before him, & he made the wonderful "84 Charing Cross Road" a year after this. But he is quite good here with his slight German accent & his subtle performance. He is perhaps the only reason to see this, & since I haven't seen the 1948 version (which I hear is pretty dreadful), I can't tell you how he compares to Boyer. But if you're in the mood for a thriller set in dangerous times, this is fairly standard viewing with the highlight of a good Hopkins performance.
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