7 January 2006 | Galygay
Superficial, disjointed WWII intrigue film with good supporting cast
A Casablanca clone that never quite gels. Paul Henreid, as Van der Lyn is no Rick Blaine (or even Victor Laszlo for that matter), but is good enough given the support he receives from proved character actors Greenstreet, Lorre, Francen, et al. Henreid hasn't the cynical streak that Bogie's Blaine had. He's too soft, and as a result his portrayal as Dutch freedom fighter "the Flying Dutchman" doesn't quite stick.
Lamarr (as Irene Von Mohr) is presented more as a polished trophy than any integral member of an underground resistance, showing off a different exotic costume and head-cover in every scene. She IS nice to look at, but after the film is over, can anyone remember what she said or did that was so special?
Peter Lorre is in his usual role, exuding a bit of quirky character depth and endearing himself to the viewer in his limited screen time. He gets in the best lines of the movie-- the "cuckoo clock" story.
Greenstreet, though definitely a presence, doesn't do much. He laughs like the "Fat Man" a few times and throws out that famous glare of his a couple more, but the viewer never gets any more than that. Anyway, how can a guy named "Ricardo Quintanilla" come across with a royal English accent???
The climax of the movie is fairly predictable. It reminds me more of the outcome of an average game of Clue. Most of the main characters of the movie are there, yet no one really does anything. This goes on for about ten minutes.
In my opinion, I find Carol Thurston's "Rosa" character much more interesting (and attractive) than Hedy's. At least she's accessible to the average non-freedom fighter. Unfortunately, these are the only two females in the whole film.
David Hoffman plays Vincent Van der Lyn's broken cell-mate in the Lisbon prison. Watch his scenes closely. It is these types of brief character portrayals that give the film some of its most memorable moments.
Overall the atmosphere of this film is quite good, especially in the scenes of the rural fishing village. Still, the viewer never really understands the reasons everything is so darn important. Characters walk around in this great atmosphere and the viewer must assume that they are coming from doing important things, or going off to do important things-- things that could either make or break the resistance movement against the Nazis. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite add up.
My advice is to either hang out at the fishing village, or leave Portugal, set sail a bit south and visit "Casablanca" instead.