Saturday, May 26, 2007


A solid WWII domestic espionage story which is a minor B-effort in production but is nonetheless packed with action and fun to watch. Pat O'Brien, out of touch with his family for years and apparently down on his luck, returns to his hometown and asks his brother (Chester Morris) for a job at a shipbuilding yard. There is some bad blood there since O'Brien left behind his loyal girl friend (Ruth Warrick) who is still getting over him (but who is currently dating Morris) and didn't even return for their mother's funeral. Morris grudgingly gives him a job and we learn that O'Brien is a government agent, set up in town with a fake wife (fellow agent Carole Landis) and kids (two refugee children), in order to uncover a spy ring which is attempting to commit sabotage at the yard. He can't spill the beans to Morris, though when Warrick meets Landis and the kids, she suspects that the situation isn't quite right. Barton MacLane is a tough-guy worker who has little use for the influx of wartime newbies, whom he dismissively calls "McGees," and he gives O'Brien a hard time until, after some knock-down, drag-out fisticuffs, the two become buddies. Wallace Ford is a co-worker, also a planted agent who has infiltrated the spies and is leaking information to O'Brien. When the saboteurs try to pull off their first job, Morris foils it but gets hurt in the process and O'Brien saves him. One of the spies recognizes O'Brien (who spent time in a Berlin concentration camp) and comes after him at his home, leading to a tense scene which itself leads to a climax involving explosions, murder, and another brutal fistfight before the saboteurs are routed and the romantic complications settled. The movie is well paced and exciting, and it was produced late enough in the war that its propaganda elements are not obtrusive. As a fan of Chester Morris, I was sorry that he essentially disappears halfway through the film, returning briefly at the end. O'Brien was a bit too old and sluggish for the part (personally, I think Morris, who was close to O'Brien's age but seemed younger and more energetic, would have worked better), but he gives it his best and comes out OK, and Landis shines as the fake wife who O'Brien begins to fall for. Also with Tom Tully (as a Nazi) and Erik Rolf. [TCM]

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