Documentary-style prologue follows training of O.S.S. agents for WWII work behind enemy lines. One of the group is a German "mole;" leaders Gibson and Sharkey are aware of this and scheme to feed him false info about the invasion of Europe, while the real agents go to France to find a secret V-2 rocket depot. But the German spy outsmarts them and rejoins his people knowing too much; Bob Sharkey takes the risk of going in after him.Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The opening prologue states: "No single story could ever pay full tribute to the accomplishments of the U.S. Army Intelligence in World War II. Working secretly behind enemy lines, in close cooperation with our Allies, its brilliant work was an acknowledged factor in the final victory. In order to obtain the maximum of realism and authenticity, all the exterior and interior settings in this Motion Picture were photographed in the field, and, whenever possible, at the actual locations." See more »
In this film, a French engineer called Duclois is a Nazi collaborator on the V2 rocket programme, and is described as being responsible for the design and construction of the 'main assembly and supply depot' in northern France, whom '077' Agent Sharkey must kidnap for urgent interrogation, so that intelligence concerning this dangerous long-range super-weapon can save the imminent Allied invasion of Europe. There were indeed major V2 launch bunkers in the 'Pas de Calais' and elsewhere in northern France, and they were certainly rendered inoperable by Allied military actions which were based upon good intelligence (hence the Germans' development thereafter of highly manoeuvrable truck-mounted launchers). Nevertheless, most of the film's military scenario for the V2 programme is really no more than a convenient dramatic fiction: There was actually no such person as the character 'Duclois.' It was Albert Speer, architect, and at this period also Hitler's Minister for Armaments and War Production, who took up a Colonel Dornberger's ideas for a massive hardened 'Blockhaus' launch site; also, a certain Gerhard Degenkolb was brought in later to help in organizing the mass-production of the rockets (Degenkolb was the former director of the 'Demag Engineering Works' and the man responsible for streamlining production in Germany's locomotive industry). The V2 rocket itself was of course actually developed by Wernher Von Braun and his own team. However, at the time of the film's production Von Braun had begun working for the US military, along with many other Nazi scientists - all having been spirited back to the United States, from under the noses of the Soviets, by the top-secret 'Operation Paperclip' - in order to develop ICBMs for the US, and it would have been political dynamite to have acknowledged this publicly at a time when incipient Cold War tensions were already being felt. See more »
Prologue, shown printed in a book: No single story could ever pay full tribute to the accomplishments of the U.S. Army Intelligence in World War II. Working secretly behind enemy lines, in close cooperation with our Allies, its brilliant work was an acknowledged factor in the final victory. The page turns to reveal: In order to obtain the maximum of realism and authenticity, all the exterior and interior settings in this Motion Picture were photographed in the field - - and, whenever possible, at the actual locations. See more »
The second half is fabulous WWII spy drama, so hang in there!
13 Rue Madeleine (1947)
This movie starts slowly and gets gradually better as it goes, until a gripping final half hour and a shocking, dramatic ending. So it's worth the ride, and worth seeing James Cagney who is at the top of his game here (he is about to make his masterpiece, White Heat, after 15 years of gangster portrayals.) Of course here his tough guy persona is put to use for the good of us all, a patriot training a group of high level war time spies. The Nazis are brutal, and World War II is unrelenting, so even this highly skilled people die. It's a reminder how tragic the war was. It is made to be exciting and even fascinating, but most of all dangerous.
Though purely fiction, for legal reasons (the pre-CIA OSS spy organization didn't want too much revealed in the movie), the filming is meant to seem realistic in a documentary way, and it begins with an authoritative voice-over and what looks like some vintage footage. This "information" is given for too long a time, and if you are not a war expert, or even know what WWII was all about, this will be too gripping. But eventually the leads all start to take on real roles, and they move from their training in the U.S. (it was filmed in Quebec City, actually), to behind enemy lines. This is then really great stuff.
Director Henry Hathaway followed this same format (even with the title) in the 1945 The House on 92nd Street and it has some of the same flaws, and the same kind of superb second half. And a year later he did a third in the same mode, Call Northside 777. It was a successful formula for a public learning about its own federal level spy and police forces, Hathaway was a really good director, and we all wish he had taken these films in the direction of Kiss of Death, which is a gem, but he didn't, probably because of producers with ideas of their own, and so we have this trio of offbeat films with only parts that are amazing. Which isn't so bad.
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