One of the better World War II propaganda films it has stood the test of time far better than a lot in the era. Possibly because the original source was a novel by one of America's best known authors John Steinbeck.
The story is about the Nazi occupation in a small Norwegian town and it is told from the viewpoint of both the conquered and the conquerors. As such in one of the few films of the era, Nazis are presented as three dimensional people and not just merciless Huns. The film also has no box office name stars which in the long run has probably helped with authenticity.
The Nazis invaded and occupied Norway to gain control of its long Atlantic coast line and prevent supplies from getting to the Soviet Union from Archangel and Murmansk. Except in certain circumstances the interior was left alone. This was one of those circumstances.
The town here has an iron mine which is the chief employer. The Reich wanted that mine, wanted the iron ore production stepped up, hence the occupation. Cedric Hardwicke is the commander of the occupying Nazi army and he deals with the occupational hazards of garrisoning a hostile town and making slave labor of its citizens.
Henry Travers is the mayor and Lee J. Cobb the town doctor and the leading two citizens of the town. Hardwicke tries to work with them and Travers especially tries to explain that you folks just aren't wanted. Hardwicke in fact deliberately refuses to remove Travers from office to put the local Quisling E.J. Ballantine in his place. In the end though he falls back on standard Nazi methods.
Ballantine should be singled out. He did not make too many film appearances and The Moon Is Down is his first. But even Hardwicke and his troops can't stand a traitor.
Peter Van Eyck has an interesting role too. The Scandinavians were viewed in the Nazi racial pecking order as fellow Aryans and the bad reception they got when taking over Denmark and Norway was a bit unsettling to their troops. They were told that occupation and the chance to join the Reich would be welcomed. Van Eyck who's a country kid tries to make friends and it unnerves the hate that he's given in return.
This film is a real gem from the World War II years. It should be rediscovered and evaluated as one of the best films of the era.
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