27 October 2009 | LCShackley
Not Your Everyday WW2 Drama
It's 1943, and the Germans are in control of the French port of Marseilles. Although the Nazis seem to be having plenty of fun at the local bordellos, they're upset by the amount of crime in the poor part of town, and suspicious that anti-Nazi plots are hatching there.
They're absolutely right. At the beginning of the film, we meet two British soldiers who escaped from a POW camp, and are hunkering down in a tiny apartment, waiting for a chance to sail to England. But they can't possibly obey orders and stay in that apartment, so they venture out, and through them we gradually meet the rest of the people in the building and the local area. There's the charming girl next door who's also a petty thief (Anna Gaylor, looking a lot like a young Jessica Lange), an ex-pat Cockney lady with a knack for self-preservation (Kathleen Harrison), a fat and vicious Nazi with an eye for the ladies, and a sinister gentleman named Dr. Martout (James Robertson Justice) who claims to be helping refugees flee the country, but may in fact be in a completely different line of work.
The script skillfully weaves all these story lines together, and keeps the tension turned up throughout. Although the opening credits label this "A British FILM" shot at Pinewood, much of it is shot on location, so the city of Marseilles plays a key role. Why is this fine- looking film, with a very competent cast and arresting visuals, so little known? This is an excellent, off-beat addition to the canon of WW2 movies.