19 June 2018 | lrrap
Gene Trades In His Dancing Shoes for Combat Boots........
....and really shines in this shockingly violent film, which makes up in nail-biting tension what it lacks in subtlety. The scenes between Gene and Peter Lorre in the prison cell are as brutal as anything from the era, and the big escape scene with Jean Pierre Aumont driving the get-away ambulance will put you on the edge of your seat and keep you there. Kelly's acting chops are really showcased here, as his cocky, defiant spirit is shattered by his prison experience, transforming him into a broken emotional invalid.
But that's BEFORE the final moments of the film. When the wily, dashing JeanPierre unexpectedly turns the tables on the Nazis, we see a brief close-up of Kelly's tormented face, the explosive will-to-fight rekindled within him---a split-second image that continues to dominate my memory of this film 40 years after having first seen it on local TV.
A solid, extremely intense, and entertaining morale booster produced during the war's darkest days. The ending is so over-the-top it's almost operatic----but you'll stand up and cheer!
PS-- Just watched the film again today (Jan 27, 2014); it's so darn good that I'm upping my rating from 8 stars to 9 Why? Because it is so expertly structured, paced, and directed. Each scene gives you JUST ENOUGH vital information to identify with the characters and the manner in which they evolve--especially Jean-Pierre Aumont and the way in which he takes over Duval's role as liaison with the Nazis and, in spite of the deterioration of his relationship with his comrades, gradually begins to hatch his daring plan to secure their release and that of his pal Gene Kelly.
Also, the interplay between Jean-Pierre and Peter Lorre, who changes in an instant from sadistic bully to flustered, subservient lackey when his commanding officer chews him out for his incompetence, is deftly scripted and carefully guided by director Tay Garnett's hand.
Other examples are the separate scenes between Jean-Pierre and Gene in the office of the camp commandant--- once again, superbly scripted and executed onscreen.
These are but a few examples of the superior craft that went into the making of this totally overlooked gem.