Friday, March 07, 2003


Released in January of '42 and therefore certainly written and filmed before Peal Harbor, this B-film is an awkward blend of crime thriller and preparing-for-war propaganda. Robert Young is a factory worker who is tested by some government men and given a job working on a top secret bombsight for military planes (we assume for eventual war use). Through the episodic opening, we see that Young is an average, everyday Joe (literally), friendly, laidback, a good husband and father, and a loyal American. After his first day on the job, he is abducted at the end of his shift by enemy spies (Nazis, certainly, though I don't think they are identified), roughed up and eventually tortured in an attempt to get him to spill the beans about his secret project. Badly bruised and bound, he holds out, partly through thinking about his wife and family--we even get flashbacks to their courtship. He eventually escapes from a moving car and, though blindfolded for most of his ordeal, he manages to reconstruct the events of the night for the police who work backwards to try to find the spies' hideout. Despite the flag-waving defense of patriotism, strength, family, and American ingenuity, this is mostly too bland to be inspiring. The last half-hour generates some noirish atmosphere, utilizing shadows and off-kilter, point-of-view photography (for example, we don't see the faces of the brutal spies while Young is blindfolded). His wife is played by Marsha Hunt and his son is Daryl Hickman; his boss, who winds up playing a surprise role in the proceedings, is Jonathan Hale. Frank Faylen and Ava Gardner have bit parts. Young's roughing-up is carried off well, but overall, the crime/mystery elements and the progpaganda elements don't work together that well. This might have come off better had it been made a few months after Pearl Harbor rather than before.

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