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Pastor Hall (1940)

This film is based on the true story of Pastor Martin Neimuller, who was sent to Dachau concentration camp for criticising the Nazi party. The small German village of Altdorf in the 1930's ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Pastor Frederick Hall
... Christine Hall
... General von Grotjahn
... Fritz Gerte
Brian Worth ... Werner von Grotjahn
Percy Walsh ... Herr Veit
Lina Barrie ... Lina Veit
... Pippermann
Peter Cotes ... Erwin Kohn
Edmund Willard ... Freundlich
Hay Petrie ... Nazi Pastor
... Heinrich Degan
D.J. Williams
Manning Whiley ... Vogel
John Salew


This film is based on the true story of Pastor Martin Neimuller, who was sent to Dachau concentration camp for criticising the Nazi party. The small German village of Altdorf in the 1930's has to come to terms with Chancellor Hitler and the arrival of a platoon of Stormtroopers (preceded by a flock of sheep - subtle). The Stormtrooper go about teaching and enforcing 'The New Order' but Pastor Hall is a kind and gentle man who won't be cowed. Some villagers join the Nazi party avidly, some just go along with things, hoping for a quiet life but Pastor Hall takes his convictions to the pulpit. Written by Steve Crook <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

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Release Date:

13 September 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El m├írtir  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


In the late-'30s, when the Boulting brothers submitted the script to the British Board of Film Censors (a common practice for years), it was rejected as unsuitable. The board claimed that it would have a negative effect on the Prime Minister's attempt to make peace with Hitler. However, when war broke out, the film was instantly put into production as an anti-Nazi tract. See more »


Pastor Frederick Hall: Oh you're a stormtrooper now, are you?
Heinrich Degan: Well, it's a job, Herr Pastor. I've been out of work so long.
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Crazy Credits

"To the day when it may be shown in Germany - this film is dedicated." See more »


Featured in Empire of the Censors (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

A Case Study in Superb British Acting
22 November 2007 | by See all my reviews

Although the title role of Pastor Hall is played by Wilfrid Lawson, and he is undoubtedly the star of this film, he gets billing below both Nova Pilbeam and Sir Seymour Hicks, but above Marius Goring, in the credits. Unfair it may be, but everyone is so good in this film that it rather precludes any attempt to fight for star billing for a particular performer. Many years back, someone who knew about such things (it may have been Olivier) called Wilfrid Lawson the supreme British character actor of his time. It is almost impossible to look at him as the almost beatific Pastor Hall and quite believe that only one year earlier he had played (better than anyone else, ever) the highly disreputable father of Eliza Doolittle in the Leslie Howard-Wendy Hiller "Pygmalion" and a rather sinister fellow in "The Terror". While his turn in "Pygmalion" is probably his most famous film performance (and he was on screen from 1931 through his death in 1966), his Pastor Hall is probably the best thing he ever did on the screen. The other actors are his equal in all but the difficulty of the roles assigned to them. A grown up Nova Pilbeam, who is best remembered for her teenage performances in two Hitchcock films ("The Man Who Knew Too Much" and "Young and Innocent") gives what is surely her best performance in her somewhat aborted film career (seventeen films in nineteen years) as the pastor's very intelligent and brave daughter, and the venerable and quite legendary Sir Seymour Hicks as an old retired General is suitably huffy, puffy and good-humored throughout, but is incredibly moving in the tear-inducing final moment of his performance. Marius Goring, who was wonderful as cold-hearted villains, mentally unstable young men, good-hearted leading men and ineffectual weaklings (rather like a British Richard Basehart) is at his coldest here as the leader of a Storm Trooper brigade assigned to bring the town in which he is stationed into line with National Socialist policies. He is such a superb actor that, although he remains totally villainous throughout the film, we see the facade of his villainy wilt for a furtive moment when receiving a much-deserved tongue-lashing from Pastor Hall in front of the Pastor's fellow concentration camp inmates. Only great film actors can make a moment like that tell the way it does here. There is also a young Bernard Miles (later Lord Miles), very moving as a Storm Trooper guard at the concentration camp who had known Pastor Hall in better days. But there simply isn't a role in the film that isn't beautifully handled. Indeed, in its own way it is as perfectly cast as "Casablanca" was a few years later. And, if anyone has a problem with the British accents, at least everyone in the film has the same one, and no one ever complained about such things when Alexander Knox or John Carradine played villainous-but-unaccented Germans in American wartime films (and let us not forget that, in a total hodgepodge of accents in "Casablanca", Claude Rains, not eschewing his glorious British heritage for a moment, played to perfection the very French Captain Renault with the most wonderful British accent to be heard short of hiring John Gielgud for the part). Anyhow, if I have seen any film in the past year that is more unjustly forgotten than "Pastor Hall", I can't recall it; but even if the picture were less worthy than I think it is, it would still be worth viewing just for the wonderful actors doing some of their very best work in it.

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