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St. John Legh Clowes
Jack La Rue,
Martin Schulz (Paul Lukas), a German/American art dealer, returns to Germany at the outbreak of World War Two, adopts the Nazi propaganda philosophy, refuses to protect the Jewish fiancee, Griselle Eisenstein (K.T. Stevens), of his son Heinrich Schulz (Peter Van Eyck), who has stayed in America to run the family business - and ultimately falls victim to the Gestapo himself.Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Opening credits: The characters and incidents portrayed and the names used herein are fictitious and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely accidental and unintentional. See more »
In the opening scene Paul Lukas's character Martin Schulz is toasting to San Francisco as he is leaving soon; one can see they are standing in front of a picture that cuts off, and does not go all the way to the top of the screen. See more »
This is a fascinating movie on a number of levels.
For anyone who loves the look of films such as "Citizen Kane' or film noir, there is plenty to offer here. The director, William Cameron Menzies, was also a brilliant art director and he went to town on this picture. Just look at the camera work; he and his crew must have shot half the film from a pit in the floor judging from the dramatic angles.
The film is set a few years before WW2. Martin Schulz (Paul Lucas) and Max Eisenstein (Morris Carnovsky) run a successful art gallery in San Francisco, Both are German immigrants and are close friends. Martin's son, Heinrich, (Peter Van Eyck) who also works in the gallery, plans to marry Giselle Eisenstein, Max's daughter (K.T. Stevens). Max is due to return to Germany with his wife, Elsa (Mady Christians), to expedite the buying for the gallery. At the last minute, Giselle breaks off her engagement to Heinrich, and also decides to go to Germany to further her acting career.
In Germany, Martin communicates with Max and Heinrich back at the gallery by mail; through his letters they sense that Martin is falling under the spell of the Nazis. Eventually this hurts Martin's relationship with Max, who is a Jew.
Martin's seduction by the Nazis, and the advantages they offer has similarities to John Halder, Viggo Mortensen's character in the more recent "Good". Both are weak men who are easily led, and both turn their backs on a Jewish friend.
Much of the plot of "Address Unknown" hangs on the letters that go backward and forward between San Francisco and Germany. As the film goes on, we learn how powerful these communications are, especially with the Nazi censors involved.
Giselle's Jewish background puts her in jeopardy when she appears in a play. Interestingly, the lines she speaks, which offend the Nazi censors, are actually the words of Jesus from the "Book of Matthew".
"Address Unknown" has a couple of scenes that really hit home, with one that would have done Val Lewton proud, and has an ending with a twist worthy of an episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents".
Although heavily stylised, the film highlights the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany, but "Address Unknown" was made in 1944, and the war didn't end until 1945. Films made during WW2, give an insight into what was influencing audiences at the time. Although the full extent of what had been going on in Germany didn't come to light until after the war, "Address Unknown" shows that the plight of the Jews before and during the war was far from a complete mystery.
The film is more restrained than some of the more strident films made during WW2, and it's somewhat abstract quality has prevented it dating all that much.
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