Saturday, February 16, 2002


This relatively unsung film is great fun and should be better known. In atmosphere, it's a lot like Hitchcock's THE LADY VANISHES, but I actually think it's better. It involves the same producers, same writers, and a few of the same actors, but it's directed by Carol Reed. Like LADY, it's a spy thriller with a fairly light atmosphere, some unconvincing but nevertheless charming use of miniature sets, and a few scenes set in the snow.

A scientist is smuggled out of Prague just as the Nazis come marching in. His daughter (Margaret Lockwood) is thrown into a concentration camp but escapes with the help of a fellow inmate (Paul Henreid, in one of his earliest English language films). They make it to England where the father is being protected by British agent Rex Harrison, but due to a major few snafu, they all wind up back in Germany, trying to make one last escape just as England enters the war. One major character is not what he or she appears to be; it's given away early in the movie, but the revelation scene is too much fun to be spoiled here--I gasped out loud when it happened.

The mood throughout is light and exciting with lots of humor and throwaway jokes. Caldecott and Charters (Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford), the stodgy, unflappable, comic relief Brits from LADY who talk incessently about golf and cricket, reappear here with even bigger roles. In fact, they play an important part in the climactic action. The pace never slows down, which hinders character development a bit, but that's not a huge loss. Harrison even gets to sing a little bit. I liked it so much, I watched it twice in one day.

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