Saturday, June 27, 2009


A prime example of the pre-WWII propaganda movie, produced before America was officially involved in the war, and there was pressure on the studios not to take sides in the European conflict. Still, some films critical of the Nazis got made (i.e., CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY, FOUR SONS). This one, about the tensions within a German family, plays out like a B-version of MGM’s THE MORTAL STORM from the year before. Philip Dorn is the leader of an underground Resistance cell whose specialty is disseminating anti-Nazi propaganda via pirate radio broadcasts. His brother, Jeffrey Lynn, a soldier, returns from the war minus an arm but still a firm believer in the cause of National Socialism. Dorn has to hide his activities from Lynn, which becomes difficult when Lynn falls for Kaaren Verne, a violinist at a local cafe who is also a member of Dorn’s group. Martin Kosleck, Hollywood’s go-to guy for nasty Nazis, is the Gestapo official in charge of stopping the broadcasts, and there is a nicely done chase scene early in the film which cuts between Dorn giving his radio speech from a moving van and the Nazis chasing him down. Kosleck, who doesn’t realize that his secretary (Mona Maris) is a Resistance spy, gives the order that any traitors caught will be guillotined facing the blade, but this doesn’t stop Dorn’s cell from their work. As Dorn finds it harder to keep his secret from his brother, a tense subplot develops about a long-imprisoned Underground member who is released, but only after he agrees to betray his friends. Soon enough, despite precautions, the group gets tripped up and Verne is arrested. Lynn finds out about their actions and despite his initial disgust with them, does eventually come around to their side. The ending strains credibility a bit here and there, but is emotionally effective. Kosleck comes close to going over-the-top, but that was certainly intended, and as is often the case, the bad guy gets some of the best lines. While his men are torturing Verne, he makes them stop short of killing her, saying, “She’s no good to me as a corpse—not yet…” Later, when asked about his ethics, he responds, “If I concerned myself with ethics, I’d soon be out of a job.” Maris, as the spy inside the Gestapo, has a couple of nice scenes, and the acting overall is fine. [DVD]

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