On June 14th, 1940, as German troops enter the French capital, Paris, the French Army is in full retreat southward. At the same time, in the French prison of Tours, Clement, a condemned murderer is about to be executed by guillotine. Under intense German bombardment, the city of Tours is heavily damaged. A few bombs fall on the prison of Tours, killing the officials and guards overseeing Clement's execution. The bombs also damage the prison walls. Clement, who survives, the bombing, sees his chance to escape. He joins one of the large columns of civilian refugees fleeing South out of the way of the invading German armies. Clement hitchhikes and is picked up by a small truck carrying French soldiers. On a main road, the truck is strafed by a German fighter plane and overturns in a ditch. Clement apparently is the only survivor and decides to steal the uniform and military identity papers of a dead French Army Sergeant. By assuming the dead man's identity, Clement becomes Sergeant ...Written by
It is speculated that the author of the original story sold the rights to two different companies, as this 1943 Universal film is similar in several significant ways to the later 1944 Warners film, Uncertain Glory. See more »
If you've seen Raoul Walsh's "Uncertain glory", the resemblance of the beginnings of the two films will strike you.In both work,Errol Flynn (Walsh) and Gabin (Duvivier) are about to be guillotined but a bombing destroys everything,and they are free .So to speak.For France is either occupied (Walsh) or about to be (Duvivier).Most amazing thing,the films were made at the same time,as propaganda movies.To be fair ,one should say that Walsh's work is superior to Duvivier's.
Duvivier and Walsh take two divergent ways then.But the subject (and the moral) remains roughly the same: an impostor,a man (both Flynn and Gabin tell it so ) who is not afraid to die ,but who wants to die honorably ,not on a guillotine but while fighting for his country,thus redeeming himself.
Duvivier's story is almost a rehashed "Bandera" (1934),but it's not as bad as people generally say.Gabin (what a great idea!) killed a man,but he was so poor,having been brought up in an orphanage,sent to reform school ,blah ,blah,blah,well we know the score!.And as he becomes some talented Mister Ripley in the army,he nonetheless displays bravery, abnegation and sympathy for his mates.The most interesting scenes show Gabin with his pal from Normandy ,who remembers Christmases with his wife and his sister-in law Jeanne-Marie.The soundtrack includes many military marches("La Marseillaise" "Marche Lorraine" "Chant Du Départ" ). De Gaulle's speech (France has lost a battle,but France has not lost the war...) in English loses 90% of its appeal.
Duvivier's last American film ,it's perhaps his least interesting,but anyone interested in Duvivier's work should watch it once.
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