Monday, November 18, 2002


This British oddity can be lumped in with BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS to show that Nazis and whimsy never quite go together. Set early in WWII (apparently before the Americans got involved) Elsa Lanchester plays a cleaning woman who is the widow of a former military man (Charles Laughton in one of the strangest cameos ever, seen only in a huge photograph that hangs in the widow's house). While cleaning up the attic, she discovers her husband's much talked about lucky charm, the Magic Eye, which supposedly once saved his life. She puts it in her pocket and doesn't give it much thought until an air raid when she miraculously survives a couple of almost direct hits. Egged on by friends, she believes the Magic Eye has made her invincible so she decides to travel to Berlin and assassinate Hitler! Posing as a deaf-mute cleaning lady, she manages to make it from London all the way to the German chancellory without passport or papers (the most unbelievable part of a movie with almost nothing believable in it!). Along the way, she makes friends with a German war hero (Gordon Oliver) who is actually a member of the Underground. She also meets up with Lord Haw-Haw (Gavin Muir), a real-life character who was sort of a British "Tokyo Rose," using radio broadcasts to hurt British morale.

I won't give away anything about the preposterous last 15 minutes of the movie except to say that by the end of this very short (barely an hour) film, I was ready to declare the "fighting Nazis with magic" genre totally dead. Lanchester is as good as she can be given the ridiculous circumstances, and there are a few nice moments. In one, when she gets to Berlin, she tries to look Hitler up in the phone book and is outraged that he's not listed. Another fun scene is when she pretends to be deaf while cleaning windows in a Nazi official's office, but instead she is carefully listening to a discussion of classified information. At one point, in a weird "fourth wall" moment, she talks directly to the camera. Quite an oddball movie; it manages to be both bizarre and banal at the same time.

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