Monday, January 27, 2014


This archetypal WWII resistance movement movie begins with the voice Hitler ranting in German as his evil claw of a hand scratches away at a map of Europe. In a Norwegian mining village, Hitler's troops parachute in, slaughter the small militia group, and connect with Corell, the local quisling—"quisling" being a term for a collaborationist, from the name of the Norwegian politician who did in fact sell out his country for a chance at ruling with the Nazis. With no defenses, the village surrenders. Corell expects to be made mayor, especially because the current mayor is trying his best to obstruct the Nazi's aims whenever possible, but Col. Lanser tells him his usefulness is over. The invaders need the mine to keep running to send ore back to Germany; young Alex resists and hits a German soldier who later dies—he is tried and sentenced to death, and the resistance of the villagers begins as soon as the firing squad executes Alex. Small acts of sabotage occur, but soon the British drop explosives at night and the Norwegians stash them away and begin causing more damage to the Nazi plans, blowing up bridges and transmission lines. The Nazis take ten hostages, including the mayor, and as they are hung in public, the mine explodes, with more explosions seen and heard throughout the town.

Based on a play and novella by John Steinbeck, this is relatively short on action but it works as inspiring propaganda for the underdogs. The sets (interior and exterior) are stagy but effective. The power of the movie rests mostly with three actors: Cedric Hardwicke as the Nazi colonel, Henry Travers as the mayor, and Peter van Eyck (pictured) as the young Nazi soldier Tonder. Each goes for underplaying rather than overplaying, and though that lessens the melodrama, it does make the story feel more real. Van Eyck is especially interesting: his German lieutenant is recognizably human and almost sympathetic in his isolation and desire for friendship and intimacy which is thwarted at every turn by the villagers. The ending is grim but predictable, especially if you've seen other resistance dramas of the era (such as COMMANDOS STRIKE AT DAWN and UNDERGROUND). This has been hard to find, but recently Fox released it as part of their burn-on-demand series. It's not a must-see but WWII movie buffs will want it. [DVD]

No comments: