Wednesday, December 13, 2006


A story of the Norwegian resistance during WWII which is lacking in the excitement that its title and DVD cover seem to promise. Set in a seaside village, the story begins in 1939 during a wedding at which we meet the main characters: salt-of-the-earth widowed fisherman Paul Muni, visiting British admiral Cedric Hardwicke, and his son (Robert Coote) and daughter (Anna Lee). Muni and Lee are clearly sweet on each other, but the Brits head home and soon the Germans invade, despite Norway's official neutrality. Muni and his fellow villagers remain fairly passive in the face of the occupation, but after the Nazis burn books, confiscate radios, shoot people for curfew violations, and start teaching race hatred in the schools, Muni calls a meeting to form a resistance group, to change themselves, in his words, "from murdered Norwegians to murdering Norwegians." Muni discovers that the Gemans are building a secret air strip, most likely to widen their invasion plans, and he and a small group of men make a desperate attempt to escape across the sea to England to get help. Even though it turns out that one of the men on the boat has turned informer (and is dealt with harshly), they make it to England where Muni meets up with his old friends, and rekindles his would-be romance with Lee. In an unrealistic finale, Muni leads a group of British soldiers back to Norway to destroy the airstrip and, in a last-minute detour, return to the village to bring back his little daughter. Most of this is accomplished, but of course, someone will have to be sacrificed. The brief commando battle is fairly well staged, but only occupies a few minutes of screen time. Like a lot of other movies of the era, this feels a lot more like a Hollywood screenwriter's idea of the war rather than what was actually happening. That's not always a bad thing (see the Errol Flynn/Ronald Reagan DESPERATE JOURNEY), but unfortunately this movie has to compete directly against the much more interesting and seemingly more realistic Norwegian underground film EDGE OF DARKNESS (also with Flynn). Muni's not bad, especially early in the film, but he doesn't make a particularly striking action hero. Strong support is offered by Alexander Knox as a Nazi, Louis Jean Heydt as the informer, Rosemary DeCamp as Heydt's wife who must decide whether or not to betray him, and Ray Collins as one of the town's first victims of Nazi torture. Silent film superstar Lillian Gish, in her first film in almost 10 years, is wasted in the small role of Collins' wife. The movie is worth seeing for fans of the genre, but missing it wouldn't be a crime. [DVD]

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