With that title one would expect either a western, a p.i./cop dark streets noir,or a war drama. Well it's in the West on a sheep ranch and Rory Calhoun is the protagonist. Jean Simmons is there to provide the standard romantic figure but is way too sophisticated to be believed as a outland waif. Stephen McNally like his contemporary Charles McGraw just looks of villainy so its surprising when he carries a badge while Mr. Ahearne like his screen daughter just looks out of place. So one gets a character study instead of a shootalot as the title implies. The actors do the script,the director sees his slide continuing,and the viewer wonders why the title wasn't used by Randolph Scott for one of his Ranown epics.
At another studio perhaps there would have been a happier ending,with all the little people getting together and buying that farm. Capra maybe for that or over at Twentieth Century Fox Shirley Temple could have sung some happy tunes while Bill Robinson danced with Lenny and George in the background Lenny and George being her caretakers until they find her rich relative's ranch in the San Joaquin Valley. Over at Warners perhaps a shootout ending with George killing Curley before collapsing dead with Lenny and Mae free to fall in love. Lewis Milestone directed a realistic drama about the forces that drive us to be either humane or inhuman,whether inside of ourselves or beyond our control. The character of George could have treated the retarded Lenny as a beast of burden to bolster his own image but it's the ranch owner's son Curley who does that to most of the workers except for Charles Bickford who he envies and fears. The character of Mae is meant to be seen as both shrill and pathetic trapped in a loveless marriage in a setting where she thought she would be elevated considered one of "better people" of the community;has come to realize too late her true role as a breeder of more Curley's. Lenny represents the trusting masses who follow whatever voice is loudest or gives the most reward and by not being able to discern his own innate strength mot destroyed or ruthlessly controlled. The example of Nazism and Communism alive and baring fangs in Europe gave added weight to the role of Lenny. Both had taken over stricken societies with visions of a new day with rewards for the faithful brutal remorseless doom for those who challenged them. Film is not escapist fare no bright tomorrow over the horizon as in Ford's version of The Grapes of Wrath,only one little man permanently crippled and alone in a society that barely knows he exists.
The only thing the real Tecumseh and this film's Tecumseh have in common is they were both Native Americans. Following on the heels of the successful Broken Arrow with James Stewart and Jeff Chandler as The Apache Leader Cochise,Hollywood flirted with the Indian as A Sympathetic Figure for a moment in series of films of dwindling quality. Columbia got on the bandwagon with this non epic depicting the historic Tecumseh as wishing to live in peace with the advancing White Eyes. In reality Tecumseh led a bloody campaign that for a brief moment seemed to be on the point of keeping the Midwest Native. The Indian Wars East of the Mississippi were far more bloodier than the ones John Ford,Raoul Walsh and others portrayed for the movie going public. Anyway The Bad White Eye and the Bad Indian ruin everything even causing the scene from the Glen Ford William Holden western The Man From Colorado of a burning town to be used again. So historical no as usual, action packed in recompense, no. Worth a peek only if you need to.
Alfred Newman's thundering score delivers more epic feelings than this film conveys. Is there some scenes that were cut? Did the producers run out of money? Not one battle scene to match the grand score's promise.A mismatch of promise and actuality. Over at Warner Brother's the great Max Steiner let loose the class A "The Adventures of Don Juan" theme that matched that films' much more lively proceedings. Tyrone Powers and Errol Flynn are labeled swashbucklers because their early career triumphs were in slash and bow movies, with IMHO Flynn the greater. By this time in their respective careers they were quite sick of the label but while The Captain is all serious except for Cesar Romero's lusty portrayal of Cortes' Don Juan has a tongue in cheek appeal though when the time comes Errol and Steiner's score rise to the challenge of rescuing the kingdom. See Don Juan for the action, humor,and score listen to Captain's theme and what could've been.
This is one of the great glimpse into another world films the world being the pre WWII American Army and a particular company. Burt Lancaster plays 1st Sgt.Milt Warden a "professional" professional soldier who in another time would've been senior centurion in the legions of Rome. His domain is his company which he runs for an empty shirt captain more interested in winning Boxing tournaments than leadership. Some of the NCOs in the company have earned their positions by being on the boxing team rather than individual merit but Lancaster's Warden keeps them in line;he can kick all their asses. Into this self contained world comes PVt Robert E.Lee Prewitt another regular with a very strong individualist streak. Played by Montgomery Clift in subtle macho mode the two lifers and the others that populate this film live in a special sealed off environment the dangerous romances with officer's wife Deborah Kerr and the hooker Donna Reed?, the Treatment Prewitt endures for not joining the boxing team, the drills, the monotony, and the friendships Prewitt and his good buddy Maggio Frank Sinatra in particular,and the forces of evil the bullying NCOs and Ernest Borgnine's brutal bear of a stockade overlord, are portraits of a lost world that would be ripped open by Japan's attack on December 7 1941. While John Wayne's Sgt. Stryker may be the NCO of Moviedom but Lancaster's Warden is three times as intelligent and just as macho with a ladykiller smile. This and Tunes of Glory and The Hill are good looks at a military world not on the firing line.
All this film lacked in its atmosphere was a scene of Richard Burton meeting with a seedier version of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre! This is not to say it's a lighthearted romanticized spy drama the pair made their own ala The Mask Of Dimitrios but a grim depressing look at one of the cogs in the Great Game played between the Stalwart Capitalists and the Commie Hordes. Peeled off what is shown is the human beings who are used and discarded by their uncaring governments, the levels and sublevels of the spy business that Burton's character Leamas is aware of and inured to or so he thinks until he gives one of the great acid dipped outbursts of rage loathing and pity in '60's film history. The East Germans could've just as easily been their evil fascist reactionary cousins the Nazis the military uniforms look the same the demeanors and voices match that of the screen Nazis Greenstreet and Lorre knew but their world is drained. The only true believer in the film who would've given the audience rousing speech in a WWII era film is Claire Bloom's Nan, the British Communist, who underneath that title is a lonely woman hoping to flee the fate of her boss at the library where she and Leamas meet. It is one of Richard Burton's finest performance before Liz, booze and Hollywood whoring( Where Eagles Dare, Raid On Rommel, Pardon Me While I Vomit this Performance Out) did his acting credentials in. (Though his last role in 1984 sums up all the Controls, Mundts,Smileys and their lessers in this film quite well)
An adequate attempt at portraying Homer's Iliad which suffers from miscast leads and a biased viewpoint. Ms. Podesta and Monsieur Sernas as the instigators of the ensuing carnage don't give off the melodramatic lust of doomed lovers,while some of the other actors look as if holding their weapons and armor for any length of time would have been a strain. Torin Thatcher is a good cynical Ulyssees,but is overshadowed by Kirk Douglas and Armand Assante portrayal of the tough and wily king of Ithaca. Robert Douglas does capture Agamemnon though a proud,ambitious overlord with over arching delusions of his own importance while Stanley Baker though not physically my image of Achilles the greatest warrior of that far off age,does bring out his easily stung sense of honor and his bloodthirstiness. Also in scene there is a hint of a "relationship" between he and Patroclus that has caused gossip since Virgil's day. Only Menelaus in this film is portrayed as a complete chump The intervention of Aphrodite/Venus into his his marriage and the fact that in Homer, though not as skilled and renowned a warrior as Achilles, Ajax,Ulysses and others on the Greek side he is brave and noble unlike the weasel Paris in the story who is constantly berated by family and Helen for his less than stellar participation in the war. The first assault on the walls of Troy, the duel between an enraged Achilles and a in over his head Hector, and the sacking of the city are the highlights of this Wise effort. If only Steve Reeves and Sophia Loren had been available.
Not for No bizness,insecure,ratsoup eating' motha Fukkas! from film schools
The various Law & Order and CSI franchises had better be glad Dolomite doesn't pass through. The lady cops,ADAs,and coroners would all be enthralled and the males be subject to such soul shivering,badge melting warp speed kicks ( Wouldn't you just love to see David Caruso's Horatio and that know it all on CSI get Dolomite's Hush Puppies pulled from their respective asses)Ice T might start crying and get back on the Playa Trail.
Low low budget,bad but enthusiastic acting,and a vision at what gutbucket nightclubs offered to its patrons;funk bands soul singers,the last vestiges of old style Chitlin Circuit entertainers( that weirdling dance troupe)James Brown,Wilson Pickett,Otis Redding,and a host of others came from those clubs to glory, while their peers labored on in local or regional stardom. Rudy Ray Moore came from that background and the character of Dolomite is a mix of the bold Black badasses who strutted through. He shouldn't have went to the joint, the swine didn't have a warrant, how his middle aged ,blubbery self maintained a loyal stable of kung fu wenches is a mystery only a student of cults can explain, but all that is beside the point. It's a glorious home movie of a legendary performer that compared to the mirrors of actors ranging from Established Hollywood to indie film snorefests,hits its mark. A fun dumb movie!
The other WWII my village is invaded dramas The Moon is Low, This is My Land with Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara,and Lewis Milestones far better production at Warner Brothers Edge of Darkness with Errol Flynn share the same roots as this film small European village is occupied by nasty Nazi hordes, collaborators emerge, then the Germans push it too far and active rebellion begins with soaring end themes and either a Winston or FDR imitator praising the heroic little people. This one is set in Grandfather Tevye's village no mean old commisars and secret police types here everyones happy and well fed and frolicking. Then the Hitlerites come and spoil everything. The ambiguity that the Hollywood capitalists felt in praising Stalin's empire's citizens led to some dreary melodramas and for some of the participants who may have either been in the American Communist Party or liberal organizations naively aligned to it, into Blacklistland. Mr. Milestone has to work with an overly talky Lillian Hellman screenplay and some young actors getting their feet steady. When the villagers finally go Cossack on the German rear echelon it's one big okay now get ready for the next commercial. The Edge of Darkness is similar but far better than this one. Though one is treated to Dean Jagger being heroic
In The Cat People the issues that still reverberate in America today female empowerment,sex,violence,and isolation are displayed in a noir world. Irena Dubrovna in order to coexist with the humans must deny herself sexual satisfaction lest her inner beast destroys her partner and brings attention to herself. It is implied that she will find her true mate in the caged black panther since perhaps male werepanthers are rare or nonexistent. Alone in the human world in a foreign country she meets and attracts with her feline grace Oliver Reed and steps between a possible romance he has had with a female colleague.Because of her condition she fears to consummate her marriage a fact which doesn't concern her "sister" it seems who recognizes her at the wedding celebration held at the neighborhood restaurant. Reed tries to understand but can only hold out for so long until he and Alice his working partner rekindle their romance and Irina is sent to the care of the urbane Dr. Judd,Tom Conway doing his brother George Sanders proud,who may have practiced his charm on other attractive female patients,but he finds out too late this is no case of simpering upperclass girly neuroses he's dealing with. The violence inherent in Irina's nature is directed at her rival Alice, with sheep and Alice's bathrobe being the chief victims. All in all this belies its low budget origins and stands out as a class A movie horror or otherwise with its atmosphere of doomed self control,fear,and the lovely Simone Simon who would appear in another spooky drama THe Devil and Daniel Webster two years later
Apacheria Land of the Apaches is the setting for this remake of the Lost Patrol which was set in... Iraq! Here frontier characters duel the Apaches and each other for survival in a merciless landscape. Except for the setting and the Americanization of the characters it is a scene by scene retelling of John Ford's film. The cast members are all familiar faces film character actors with the emphasis on actor instead of Star. The film was probably a second feature tryout for its director and some cast members. Solid but not top drawer. A nice change would've been showing the warriors of Apache Jack's band of renegades reactions to their own losses. This film and it's predecessors the Ford film and the Soviet film that may have inspired them Ten would be seen in Zoltan Korda's Sahara with Humphrey Bogart, The Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven, Duel at Diablo,and Ulzana's Raid.
Good Western with a little just a little) pysch depth to it
The Civil War has ended two years previously and among the disbanded veterans from both sides are large numbers of rootless men, more use to the campaign trail than going back to farm or town now. With like minded war hardened men, they continue to do what had once been praised and rewarded, raid. Instead of the enemy, for destruction of infrastructure and information, it's to take the loot of them soft civilians back home. A group of Union veterans led by an ex- Kansas Jayhawker, with a civilian professional gambler in their midst, plan to bring their specialty to a town in the Arizona Territory. So begins William Wellman's Yellow Sky. Gregory Peck is the leader "Stretch" Dawson was fighting in the Kansas- Missouri Border wars of the 1850's before the "Big One" started,can be seen as Wellman's way of saying the recently ended "Big One" has profoundly changed the men who fought in it and came home whole physically,but wounded emotionally.Dawson has no home to go to in Kansas his mother and father both having died while he was away in his"Blue Pants!" and the now familiar danger and camaraderie of battle is his world now. There are glimpses toned down for '40's audiences sensibilties that he's a take no prisoners coldhearted sonofabitch in a fight, a perfect match for the later to come portrayals of the BorderWars veterans, played by James Stewart and Arthur Kennedy, in Bend In the River, and Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales. The simiarities between Peck's early portrayal, Stewart,and Eastwood is they are not yet totally comsumed by their efficiency as killers,unlike Arthur Kennedy, who was weakened to the point he was able to doublecross a friend. They wish a fresh start, Peck finds it in the jean wearing sharpshooter, Anne Baxter( her nickname is Mike, she hunts, c'mon now) Stewart in the farmers and Julie Adams( she starts out more traditional, but then,shows potential to becoming a Miss Kitty,with a hint that she and Arthur Kennedy did the Bronco) and Josey Wales getting "a new family to live for". Yellow Sky includes a good performance from Richard Widmark in snake mode, a lively evil coyote John Russell, plus a nice scene where the predators are gathered around the old man's bed to hear where the gold mine is. If Pecks character hadn't fallen in love or Marjorie Main been in the house no telling how ugly that would've got.
The phrase over the top catches this film in its shadow. As a soap opera it would be still on the air there are Actors instead of pretty people posing, but the whole big stew of this film is all spice and no substance. The gunshots in the opening credits makes you think at first this is going to be one of the super westerns Warner Brothers had been putting out escalating in scale gunfights to a final massive gun battle between the opposing hordes, larger than life Hero an almost sympathetic Boss Gunman,and a spunky Heroine. San Antonio with Erroll Flynn and Alexis Smith as example. What do we sagebrush action junkies get, the destruction of a railroad bridge and a train (representing the Evil Eastern Interests and Progress) and then the gathering of the cowboy hordes in a potentially great set piece, to swoop down and ride over the railroad camp, and what happens,stunt men getting a workout, horses falling riders tumbling,railroad workers ran down,gunned down,throwing down with, rifles, pistols and mallets,the intervention of a regiment of US cavalry? NO. IT is the main fault of this film, it builds you up then pop it's over and your saying like Peggy Lee "Is that all there is?" I lump this western with The Outlaw as biggest to do's about nothing oaters. Selnick and Jennifer Jones struck out on this one,Gregory Peck enjoyed playing a coyote in heat,Lionel Barrymore looks like a butch Truman Capote in the Ride Sequence, Joseph Cotton was bored in his thankless bland part, Ms. Gish and Ms. McQueen were sharing some kind of frontier hallucinogen. Instead of Duel in the Sun it should be called Big Fuss in the Dust.
In the hands of lesser performers working with a weaker script this could have been a clunker a time filler until the dental appointment. As it is it's a good movie portraying a particular type of imperialist the one who thinks by being a gentleman war's darkness can be brightened. He's a damn fool of course in thinking that way and the preceding decades prove it. But he's not a bad fellow to those who enter into his life They include three women all played by a young Debrorah Kerr, one of whom he marries the other marries his best friend a fellow member of the Grand Illusion club a German aristocrat. The Boer War,WWI, WWII are grim backdrops the smugness of the British upper class as they blithely inform the German friend just released from a WWI POW camp for officers that all will be right again, as if the mass slaughter just ended was a close rugby match. The German far more intelligent than his friend knows round 2 is coming up but not as he expected it to be. The narrow visioned Blimp is oblivious to the changes going on around him when he's lost his first love or becomes a widower he slaughters animals. He chooses to be ignorant of the British concentration camps in the Boer War or the methods used by subordinates a Boer no less, to extract information from rankers in the German Army of the Kaiser,nor how the Hitlerian Army swept through the West in the Blitzkreig of 1940. The film ends with his awareness that he's obsolete as a soldier but can become a better human being though like Churchill I don't see him breaking up the Empire.
Raise the drawbridge and prepare for a Technicolor siege, my liege
The trouble with this film is mainly the casting of Robert Taylor as Ivanhoe. He is not swash buckler material and moves and speaks like a medieval It's a Flat World animatronic character. It's bad when the villains are more sympathetic than the hero. Joan Fontaine and Liz provide the sighs and heaving bosoms and a cast of English character actors provide the right accents and atmosphere. As Sir Walter Scott proved never letting historical accuracy get in the way of telling a good story has proved financially rewarding provided the story you're telling your audience buys into. As in "The Adventures Of Robin Hood" the Normans are the bad guys while Ivanhoe like Robin Hood is a hero to the downtrodden Saxon masses. The fact that a peasants life was brutally miserable whether under Saxon or the Norman conquerors makes no difference. Richard the Lion Heart and Prince John and their vassals spoke Norman French they didn't know or care to know what those dirty beggars spoke only as long as they obeyed. To rise to knighthood Ivanhoe would have to learn that language,manners,and ways of warfare familiar to the dominant class. In other words it was the Normans who shaped Angleland into Great Britain. History lesson and opinion over; the best aspect of the film and why I say it was George Sanders, not Guy Rolfe,who walked away with the best actor award was the FORBIDDEN ROMANCE of the Christian knight and the Jewish Princess. Miss Taylor just sighed and looked puppyeyed, while Sanders actually whether worrying about real life issues or acting,played a conflicted yet heroic character. His character was willing to give up all his social standing And feudal holdings to become a wandering free-lance or mercenary knight on the Continent to be with her character(Rebecca of York) and she is in love with an empty suit of chain mail that is Robert Taylor. Go figure.
With the increasing dangers of another major bloodletting about to occur twenty-two years after the Armistice was signed,a still Depression and myopic saturated United States started becoming aware of the new,fiercer agressors on the world scene. Hollywood not wanting to lose any foreign revenue had tiptoed around Japanese and Italian invasions of China and Ethiopia respectively,and I believe made only one film about the Spanish Civil War "Blockade" starring Henry Fonda. With September 1,1939 and the Hitlerian invasion and conquest of Poland things started to change. Warner Bros."The Sea Hawk" and this film and a host of Bs Cs and what were they thinking film productions started praising up the English for both commercial and political reasons a world spanning empire and the need/use for it as a potential ally in an increasingly dangerous world. So in "NorthWest Passage" the film there is a spurt of why the American Revolution occurred early on,and a brawl between Yank and Limey before the expedition gets fully underway,mostly it's an alliance of equals, united in a common purpose: to defeat the French and annihilate their Indian allies. The cleaned up massacre at the Abenaki village hides the fact like hundreds of other films contemporary and later,that not just fighting men were killed,everybody who didn't escape became victims. Neither the English nor the colonial Americans had any view to sharing the land so the Indian Wars east of the Mississippi contrary to popular belief (the feathered horseman circling the wagons or posed menacingly on the horizon)were far more bloodier than those in the American West.
The film is preparing the American public for the time when they would have to be drawn into the struggle,the cinematic labors of the films grunts would mirror the coming travails of actual GIs in Europe and the Pacific with all classes and races involved. Spencer Tracy for better or worse would become the role model for 2nd lieutenants,Robert Young the post war reflection of a return to normalcy,and Walter Brennan the filmic ancestor of a Jerry Springer panel member.
As a previous commenter has stated,George Sanders' Gurko Lanen character isn't all unsympathetic,in fact in "reality" he would've been labeled a great national figure if he had pulled his coup off. If the country had been(and it seems to be implied) founded and ruled by Germanic lords over Slavic types,Lanen coming up from a peasant artisan background already is a true man of the people. The officer class featuring a non masked Clayton Moore represents the old outland overlords are especially resentful that such a one as Lanen has gained ascendancy . Miss Snooty is being properly Victorian looking down on the upstart,but if a climatic sword duel had been written the other way,I am assured Miss Bennett would've become a good Nasty Girl ala Woman In the Window,cooing and ooing at her Lany Nany. And if Louis Hayward had actually been a banker from such a background as the original Count, his sympathies would have gone to a fellow self made man. But it didn't and Gurko Lanen fell to lie in an unmarked grave of swashbuckling cinematic badguys. But unlike many of them,his is still cared for by adherents much like many of Basil Rathbone's blood and thunderers( though I'm sure Robin Hood's foe lies in the family crypt-he was a Norman you know).
The POV of Lady the In The Lake experiment hides the fact that Robert Montgomery wasn't up to the task of being Philip Marlowe. Oh he had the tough talk down pat, but as someone said earlier he was better in Ride The Pink Horse. In this movie he doesn't feel like Marlowe, a Marlowe who can take and give a hard punch. The first confrontation he takes a punch that results in a black eye but it leaves him unconscious! Dick Powell- the surprise Philip Marlowe of all time-and Humphery Bogart-one of the best Marlowes of all time-would've required a shot from Moose Malloy or a sap to the head by some strong arm thugs to go down from one blow like that. Perhaps it was her reaction to a camera instead of an actor that made Audrey Totter seem chilled in their "scenes" together rather than Claire Trevor's cold hearted user and Lauren Bacall's cool cynic in the earlier Marlowe incantations. And MGM was never at that time at least a studio known for hardboiled,gritty crime dramas. The Christmas carols though were a nice touch and Lloyd Nolan who should have played the lead was good as usual in his role as the crooked cop. Nolan had played a PI in some Michael Shayne Bs before the noir cycle began so he knew the mannerisms and Philip Marlowe a tarnished knight with principles would've been a perfect fit. All in all Lady In The Lake is noteworthy for it's groundbreaking experiment, the appeasement of a fading leading man's ego (not the last time either)and some vision into the world of Chandler's alter ego. George Montgomery as Philip Marlowe? Blasphemy! James Garner- a 60s laidback version suitable but also a precursor to Jim Rockford who had his Chandler moments. Roert Mitchum was Philip Marlowe both in looks and world weariness a perfect match only Bogart equals him. Mr. Montgomery would ride a pink carousel horse to better success.
On one of the cable news segments a reviewer for Newsweek? called this a P.C. epic since it had everybody more or less in a good 21st century humanist light. Well, epic movies have reflected the times and politics of the directors and audience: They Died With Their Boots On saw WWii and the early defeats in the Pacific rushing toward them,the second Charge of the Light Brigade dwelt on the utter waste of battle conducted by class bound military idiots, while the Rambo - Missing in Action films proclaimed the mantra if only the 'Nam troopers had been fully unleashed. If you want to compare Kingdom of Heaven to a film set during the Crusades, watch if you can Cecil deMille's The Crusades. Can you say "we've come a long way baby?" KOH has a good start then slows as the Hero settles into his new role as lord of the manor with a diverse peasantry of Jews, Moslems and both native born and foreign Christians. Then there is a too similar scene with Gladiator a Dying Noble King offering the throne to our Hero with the caveat that blood must be spilled in attaining the prize. But I'm a sucker for a well staged medieval battle scene especially if it captures the mindnumbing slaughter it entailed to actually feel the blood spurt and bone crunch of ones immediate foe,the melee in the breach is perfect. Read Stephen Runciman's histories for a true picture of events,or, for fun,read Harold Lamb's romanticized pulp history version, there are times when you half expect Conan or Kull to stride through.
Storms in the Palace and a close shave at the Block
Fun romanticized costume drama based on history like I,Claudius,dealing with that entertaining human pursuit,Power. Ms. Davis and Mr. Flynn on screen actions may have mirrored their off screen relations, but this film makes it all look good. Some have said that Mr. Flynn was in over his head acting wise but I say he was perfect for the role. The historical Lord Essex lost his head because he was over matched by Elizabeth I and his palace rivals. At least Flynn didn't come across as stupid like the actor who portrayed Essex in the later Elizabeth I bio starring Glenda Jackson on PBS many,many,moonets ago( Sonnets-moonets get it? Oh, sorry) Flynn would get his revenge on Henry Daniel in the Sea Hawk,would win Olivia, and would be one of the few major male stars to still make Kevin Costner look like an idiot in his swashbuckler attempt. One more thing; Mr. Areinoff I think if Errol Flynn had played Rhett Butler Scarlett,Melanie,Mammy,the twins and Ashley Wilkes would've had the hots for him. His sign off line to Scarlett would've resonated even more. According to rumors in the original film Ashley and Rhett went off together and opened a boutique in Savannah.
Far superior to Commandoes Strike At Dawn and The Moon Is Down,by Columbia and Twentieth century Fox respectively, the common theme is Norway and light. Lewis Milestone whose viewpoint seemed to be no matter what flag an army is a marching beast of destruction composed of individuals of all types giving into the communal need to kill and impose the groups will. Edge of Darkness, though it has the elements that make watching films of this era irksome i.e. pulling grenades with the teeth, only the good guys suffer wounds,stirring speeches for the home audience,it is Milestone grim. The German garrison dies hard taking a heavy toll of villagers, the retaliation their comrades will impose on some hapless Norwegians will be brutal. Juliet Anderson and a German corporal almost share what would be in another, post war film, a romantic relationship but she is filled with patriotic revenge and the lonely corporal becomes a reluctant victim of national resolve similar to what happened in the almost similar film The Moon is Down's ill-fated romance. Errol Flynn is the embodiment of the Noble Cause the other performers play recognizable types stepped on or used by the Enemy. The final battle almost mirrors how WWII eventually ended, with a gradually dwindling,but still war hardened professionals succumbing to the citizen soldiers of the Allies, whose armies had by 1943 become proficient while the Fuhrer's started their decline collapsing into old men and boys leavened with a war weary soldatens trying to stay alive.
The recent documentary "The Adventures of Errol Flynn" is an in-depth look at the Ultimate Hollywood Hero. Bogart,Cagney, Wayne and the like were basically blue collar types in their screen images but Flynn was an aristocrat in his style and manner, the younger son out to carve out his own fiefdom for a sword,thunder and romance analogy that ironically he found himself trapped in. If he hadn't been under contract to Warner Bros. he would've of been perfect in the Cary Grant role in Suspicion: the good looking charmer whose 1000 watt smile blinds one to the fact that he's a predator. And he could've starred with his best leading ladies sister Joan Fontaine. That was Flynn's trouble he was the Ultimate Screen Hero until his own habits and bad timing caught up with him. Grant and Flynn in a way are similar but Flynn was the more macho of the two;it is possible to see Grant as Captain Blood but Flynn in The Philadelphia Story Mr. Blanding Builds his Dream House,or Monkey Business,or Operation Petticoat would've turned those roles on their collective ears because he's too damn sure on his feet and the sexual tension he would've brought naturally would've made the story lines wobbly. But this wobbly biography is just a plasticized view of Flynn and his era. There are times when I half expected a laugh track or an audience to go "Ahhh" at some point. It doesn't go deeply into Flynn's life just the screen magazine view. It also doesn't delve into his struggle to be considered more than a derring-doer. Like the cleaned up biographies of Lon Chaney( the father,not the Wolfman,or Lenny"Of Mice and Men) and Buster Keaton done in the '50's this is just a time killing piece of fluff
Though this takes place on a warship, it bears resemblance to WB's Action in the North Atlantic also of 1943 which is set on a merchant ship. Randolph Scott is the sheriff uh captain of the named ship,among the crew is a young Robert Mitchum. Mr. Scott delivers but not until the postwar period will he develop in my mind the seriousness that saved him from the wooden Indian junk heap. The final duel between the U Boat and the corvette is exciting and (very rare in films of this era)the enemy are portrayed as formidable foes.
A pretty good not great action film if say this film and the Magnificent Seven or the Tall T came on different channels would opt for the others with a switchback to watch the ship to sub duel.
As far as realism goes this most definitely ain't Das Boot or Run Silent,Run Deep. It is a propaganda and revenue movie made during WWII. Films like this had cringe moments-pulling the pins of hand grenades with teeth, the German cannon fodder always seemed to come off dress parade with their shiny helmets and boots,the Japanese were four eyed treacherous runts, and the Italians were just delightfully inept etc.. This film benefits from the Warner Bros. studio seeming ability to restrain the overt Mom and Apple Pie-ism and deliver the action scenes. There are some WWII films both A and B types that reek in comparison to contemporary films of the same era: Robert Taylor's MGM opus Bataan is weak compared to Columbia's Humphery Bogart Sahara. This movie delivers on its goal of providing (now hokey) thrills for its audience in its setpieces but it is not the ultimate submarine war drama or war film.
Audie Murphy had finally gotten a role where he could show his dark side. Picking up bits from Dan Duryea and Barry Sullivan's affable bad guys in previous films he had made with them, his John Gant is a smooth professional killer, an arbiter of fate, who in this film at least,seems to kill only those who truly deserve it. Cat calm and just as ruthless,he's afar cry from the baby face "Man gotta do what a man got to do" types he played in other Universal westerns. His real life prowess as the Hero lessened the suspense of those films, in this it brings a much needed tension; who can stop him? If he had played the good doctor and Charles Drake was the gunslinger everyone would know the resolution before the fadeout. Here, in a dark reversal of "Shane"'s ending, the fast gun rides out of the picture,his job completed,the hypocrisy and failings of the "good people" exposed,and the frontier is a little more civilized. This film,along with "The Red Badge of Courage,and the original "The Unforgiven" are the roles that showed that Mr. Murphy could've been a contender as an actual actor.