British hunter Thorndike vacationing in Bavaria has Hitler in his gun sight. He is captured, beaten, left for dead, and escapes back to London where he is hounded by German agents and aided by a young woman.
An altruistic department-store owner hires ex-convicts in order to give them a second chance at life. Unfortunately, one of the convicts he hires recruits two of his fellow ex-convicts in a plan to rob the store.
A young orphan is sent to the village of Moonfleet, in Dorset, England to stay with his mother's former lover, who has the facade of a gentleman but is a leader of a gang of swashbuckling bootleggers. The duo went on a treasure hunt.
Toward the end of World War II, the allied secret service receives a partial message indicating that the Germans are researching nuclear energy to build atomic bombs. In Midwestern University, the scientist Alvah Jesper is called up by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to meet his former colleague Dr. Katerin Lodor in Switzerland and bring her to North America. However, his mission fails and Dr. Lodor is killed by the Nazis but first she informs that Alvah's acquaintance Dr. Giovanni Polda is working for the Nazis in Italy. Dr. Jesper travels to Italy and with the support of the Italian partisans leaded by Pinkie and Gina, he has a meeting with Dr. Polda that is under the surveillance of the Gestapo. The scientist tells him that his daughter Maria had been abducted by the Gestapo and Alvah makes a deal with Dr. Polda, promising to release Maria first and bringing them to North America. While Pinkie travels to rescue Maria, Alvah stays with Gina and they fall in love for each ...Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Due to military intelligence and secrecy reasons, Hollywood film studios were prevented by the U.S. government from mentioning the OSS (the Office of Strategic Services) in movies during World War II. However, this movie was first released in September 1946, which was after the end of World War II, hence explaining why the OSS was mentioned in this movie. See more »
There are terrific aspects to this movie, but it's easy to get a bit bogged down at the start, and to flag here and there for the whole first half. Once it hits Italy, and a bit of a formula plot, it picks up steam, including a slightly steamy romance and a predictably dramatic end.
It is a deliberate "propaganda" film, really, and it states outright that it is a tribute to the OSS, a 1940s foreign secret service that preceded the CIA. But don't let that bother you...it's not an important element in the drama. What is most striking, politically, is its prescient stance on the bomb.
One ongoing problem for me is Gary Cooper, who plays an unlikely American physicist asked to do a highly dangerous undercover job in Switzerland, and then behind enemy lines. Cooper can be strong and calm and silent, and he pulls off the non-GI American with humility and poise. But he also comes off wooden, or worse. Cooper has often had the ability to take powerful lines, or whole dramatic moments, and make them unconvincing or almost destructive by what looks like lack of ability to act. If he is too famous and beloved by to too many people to say he can't act, I still think a red flag is needed here. If Cooper is an acquired taste at best, this isn't Cooper at his best. And he dominates the movie.
Outdoing Cooper is the little known Lili Palmer, who had an important role in her next film, Body and Soul. Even though her lines (and her character) are all clichés of sorts, she adds little quirks and dramatic edges that make them work. She's not meant to be an Ingrid Bergman, but more like an Ida Lupino--a woman who can shoot and run, and yet remain a woman. A woman in a man's world. The supporting cast around these two leads isn't bad, not at all, but everyone top to bottom is trapped by a mediocre script, whatever the good intentions.
Lang of course is a veteran director who understands dramatic film-making, as well as Europe itself, and in this anti-Nazi film we feel perhaps a tug from his own anti-Nazi past (fleeing Germany in the 1930s and leaving his Nazi-sympathizing wife behind). Politically, there is a strong, even brave, anti-atomic age theme to the movie, including an early impassioned speech by Cooper against the use of atomic weapons. This is just one year after the bombs were dropped on Japan, and the world was still trying to figure out what the atom bomb really meant. Very interesting, clear politics here, and yet it's ostensibly a patriotic film.
Overall Lang makes the movie look and sound good, with the help of great cinematographer Sol Polito (Now Voyager, Arsenic and Old Lace) and music by Max Steiner.
Another theme which can't be overlooked is a more social one--the romance is really a reason to remind us of the roles women and men are "supposed" to have. War is war, and and in 1946, women and men can go back to what they had been doing before--including getting married and having kids (the scene in the old carousel is a suggestive example here). This underscores the bond and the conflict of Cooper and Palmer, a pair of ordinary people sucked into the high drama of war but wanting only a peaceful world where they could do ordinary things like fall in love without fear.
There is actually a lot going on here. Watch for its strengths, and keep your expectations in line.
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