It's a fast-paced thriller about a mob of Himmler's goons in post-war Berlin who kidnap an American GI, the son of a big wheel in the ferris business, and who want to trade the kid back for a pair of burnt-out old anti-Nazi Germans so they can torture and kill them as revenge.
Get that? If not, it's not too important. The movie will make things almost clear enough. It's a lot of fun to watch. The acting required is negligible -- the plot is everything.
Broderick Crawford does his "junkman" number from an earlier movie, a blustering materialist who comes to Germany to cut through the red tape and see that his kidnapped son is returned regardless of the cost. The price is the return of those two anti-Nazis, one of them already deliberately blinded by the Gestapo because of his involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler. By the end of the movie, Crawford has seen the human face of Cold War intrigue and decides that the elderly couple should be saved.
His feelings, of course, are as irrelevant after his change of heart as they were before. The job is in the hands of stern but human Major Gregory Peck. Peck snaps out orders and calls everyone by diminutives -- Stansman is "Stanzy," Frau Hoffmeier is "Hoffy," Colonel Ludovich is "Ludy", Petrochine is "Petey", and so on, so obsessively that one wonders if Nunally Johnson actually visualized the script.
There's a little hole in the plot too, or maybe it's somewhere in my frontal lobes. Peck discovers that his former girl friend Hoffy is actually a spy for the Russkies (or for Himmler's thugs, it's not clear). And she realizes at a critical point that Peck knows. How does she realize it? I don't know. In the scene, Peck seems to do nothing that would arouse her suspicions. Maybe she is a Jungian intuitive type.
But who cares? You can't really take any of this seriously, not even the deaths that crop up in the story, because we have never seen the people who die. And the film is leavened with occasional shots of humor. Barnaby Jones -- I mean Buddy Ebson as the wisecracking sergeant keeps poking his head into a room full of guys listening to the radio and asks who's ahead -- the Yankees again? And Ebson also has to go through one of those scenes in which he samples a bottle of absinthe, grimaces, shudders, and starts to speak in a hoarse whisper before clearing his throat and speaking normally. There is a running gag about a doctor who is trying to quit smoking by never carrying any cigarettes around, except that he keeps bumming them off other people. In my opinion the most amusing scene is one in which a British intelligence agent visits Peck and the two of them have soft drinks. On his way out, the Brit pauses at the door then walks back and leans over the secretary and asks what that stuff was in the brown bottle. "Root beer, sir," she replies. He thinks for a moment, then comments, "Curious sort of stuff, don't you think?" and leaves the room.
Enjoyable minor film kind of drags you along with its quick unfolding of events.
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