Archive for the ‘Nazis’ Tag

The Small Back Room (1949)   Leave a comment

back room poster

A series of mysterious deaths, most of them children, follow the nightly German bombings during London’s blitz. After investigating, the Army learns that before their deaths by explosion these children all found a brightly-colored object resembling a thermos and died after approaching or touching it. Eager to learn something about the booby-traps and how to diffuse them, Captain Stuart (Michael Gough) seeks the aid of Sammy Rice (David Farrar), a highly regarded scientist in a top-secret intelligence investigation unit. The unit, housed in a dingy, small back room crack codes, test weaponry, and generally solve problems no one else can. Sammy, the de facto leader of the group meets Stuart and they decide he will call Sammy the next time they find a bomb so he can come to the scene and study it to prevent more deaths.

room

Sammy goes to work the next day and we see his co-workers. Till, played by Michael Goodliffe works on codes, ciphers, and statistics. Corporal Taylor (a young Cyril Cusack) deals with munitions. Joe (Emrys Jones) spends most of his time between assignments on the phone with his girl. Sue, played by the lovely Kathleen Byron serves as secretary and is having a secret affair with Sammy. The group works well together. They depend on Sammy to advocate for them with the higher ups. With a few exceptions, the middle and upper management are self-serving buffoons interested more in their own advancement than the safety and happiness of the men under them. A fine example of this is a trip the Minister of their section makes to the lab. The men put on a dog and pony show for the insipid man, beautifully played by Robert Morley, and show him some phony experiments to dazzle him. He leaves happily discussing restaurants with the obsequious Waring (Jack Hawkins) and the men can get back to work. Full of in-fighting and political intrigue, the department holds no interest for Sammy. Sammy sidesteps the political machinations, but never states his own opinion preferring to avoid conflict and responsibility. It’s clear he should be running the group, but he refuses to make any effort to do so.

bureaucracy

Sammy has other things on his mind. We find out early in the film that Sammy has a drinking problem. Bitter over an accident ten years before which left him with a prosthetic lower leg and in pain, Sammy turned to drink. He no longer drinks whiskey, but it takes resolve and the help of Sue to keep him sober. Sue is always there to support him when Sammy starts to falter. She adores him and he loves and depends on her. It’s a much more adult love story than most films of the 1940s and Farrar and Byron have amazing chemistry. Their physical relationship is implied as well. Soon, the pressures of Sammy’s job, his pain, both physical and mental, and his alcoholism threaten to end his affair and sabotage his career.

love2

All the while, bombs continue to fall on London and more die as a result of them and the booby traps. Captain Stuart and Sammy along with their crews work to stop the senseless killing. The scene with a hungover Sammy and a bomb on a beach is as suspenseful as they come.

bomb

In the commentary included on the Criterion version of The Small Back Room, Michael Powell refers to this film as a love story first and a WWII film second. Marketing The Small Back Room as a war film was a mistake, Powell says. No one wanted to see war films in 1949, so the film did poorly at the box office. That’s too bad because the film is a gem. Based on a book by Nigel Balchin, it has everything. A riveting story, characters we care about, and realistic acting by the entire cast make the film a joy. It’s one of those films that makes you wonder what happens to the characters after the film ends. It also looks fabulous. Christopher Challis, who worked as a camera operator on Powell and Pressburger’s 1947 masterpiece Black Narcissus did the cinematography for The Small Back Room. John Hoesli served as art director and Hein Heckroth did the production design. The artists really got to show off in one scene which reminded me of the surrealism of Milland’s bats in The Lost Weekend.

bottle

Composer Brian Easdale even used a theremin to highlight the agony of an alcoholic trying valiantly to resist the drink. I can’t say enough about The Small Back Room. The performances by Farrar, Byron, Gough, Cusack, and the whole cast along with gorgeous black and white cinematography and wonderful production values courtesy of The Archers work. I highly recommend it.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot to mention Stonehenge. They shot part of the film at Stonehenge. So the film has terrific acting and writing and it also has Stonehenge…and a theremin. You owe it to yourself to see this.

stonehenge

archers

Advertisements

They Saved Hitler’s Brain: It Earned 37 Green Stamps!   7 comments

combo

Filmed almost entirely at dusk, They Saved Hitler’s Brain picks up where The Madmen of Mandoras leaves off. Well, to be more accurate, it starts before The Madmen of Mandoras begins.

Madmen, originally released in 1963, clocked in at 64 minutes. At the request of the producers, director David Bradley and a handful of his UCLA students added 30 minutes to the film for television broadcast in 1968. His added footage appears at the beginning of the film and isn’t exactly seamless despite the skill of cinematographer Stanley Cortez (Night of the Hunter, Chinatown).

As the film opens, we see Dr. Bernard remove papers from a safe, go to his car, and blow up. In the briefing at CID headquarters which follows we learn that Bernard had been working with Professor Coleman on the L7 Project looking for the antidote to G gas. What is G gas, you ask? The head stiff explains that “…loss or destruction of this antidote could mean the complete annihilation of the world.” So there’s that. To prove the lethal power of G gas, Science Guy shows a filmstrip of an elephant lying down. Then, we meet Vic and Toni. Vic and Toni work as agents for the CID. Vic and Toni were not in the original film. Vic and Toni were filmed in different light wearing a completely different style of clothing from the people in the 1963 film. Vic and Toni are doomed.

victoni
Vic and Toni chat about the mission.

Anyway, Vic and Toni begin working on the case of the exploding professor. They drive around in Toni’s VW Beetle looking for clues until they’re chased by some guys in ill-fitting hats. Things go downhill from there for our intrepid duo. At this point the original film starts and it’s The Madmen of Mandoras from here on in.

The Madmen of Mandoras (1963)

Professor Coleman invents an antidote to the powerful nerve gas PAM. PAM, of course is an acronym and don’t ask me for what. It’s also a cooking spray so it’s clear ConAgra never saw this movie.

pam
All this fuss over me?

Anyway, bad guys want the formula so when they release PAM, no one gets out alive. To lure the professor into their clutches, the criminals kidnap his Valley Girl (circa 1963) daughter and take her to the South American country of Mandoras. The professor’s older, more sensible daughter and her husband hop a plane to Mandoras after a foreign guy holds them at gunpoint, then dies in their car.


“I’ll be fine.”

Down in Mandoras, the couple is reunited with their dippy sister. After a weird gunfight in a nightclub where Carmen Miranda’s less talented cousin performs, some guy we don’t know takes a bullet and the local sheriff, portrayed by local sheriff portrayer Nestor Paiva, rounds up our trio of nitwits and brings them to the hoosegow. There we meet the president, who resembles the Hispanic version of Colonel Sanders, and find out the real power behind this incredibly contrived plot. A band of Nazis holed up in the presidential palace plot to gather the rest of their evil gang, drop PAM, and take over.


Nazis have the weirdest cotton candy machines.

Once they’ve laid waste to the world as we know it, they plan to put their own guy in power. Since they’re Nazis, three guesses as to who they’ve chosen to lead them. Yup. The Big Kahuna himself, Adolph. It seems scientists collected some cells in the fabled bunker and used them to…um, grow a new Fuhrer. They didn’t exactly grow a whole Hitler, just a head. So we get some hilarious scenes with a head under glass making odd expressions, looking around curiously, and barking orders. There’s even a carrying case with handles for when the head has to ride in the back of a limo. More stuff happens but who cares? You watch this film to see Hitler’s head scream, “Mach schnell!” to his underlings from under a pastry cover.


“Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!”

According to imdb, Steve Bennet and Richard Miles wrote the screenplay for this and They Saved Hitler’s Brain and not much else. Often hard to follow, the story meanders and the audience feels just as out of it as the cast. The Madmen of Mandoras has, as Joe Bob Briggs says, “too much plot getting in the way of the story.” David Bradley directed The Madmen of Mandoras as well as They Saved Hitler’s Brain and used some scenes for both films. I guess with gold like that you want to get as much mileage as you can out of it. I’d recommend this for the weirdness quotient alone.


Added observations:

It may be because I just watched Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 From Outer Space recently, but the double agent who claims to work for the CID, but is really Hitler-Under-Glass’ chauffeur looks like a cross between Bunny Breckinridge and Criswell.

chauffeur hitler
This guy. You’d agree with me if he took off his hat.

David Bradley directed Charlton Heston in the 16mm student productions of Peer Gynt and Julius Caesar while they attended Northwestern University. I thought that was pretty cool.

I wrote this piece for the Accidentally Hilarious blogathon hosted by Movies Silently. She runs a terrific blog about classic film. moviessilently.com/

Find me on Twitter. @echidnabot

bootiful
It’s beautiful!

accidentally-hilarious-godzilla-vs-monster-zero

Where Eagles Dare (1968): Broadsword to Danny Boy   14 comments

poster where

Chock full of action, surprising plot twists, and World War II intrigue, Where Eagles Dare ticks all the adventure film boxes while adding the element of cool spy stuff to the mix. It may seem like the standard mission flick in which the brass assembles a crack team for some essential mission, but there’s a lot more to it. Major Smith (Richard Burton) leads a handful of British troops and one American (Clint Eastwood) behind enemy lines to retrieve American General Carnaby (Robert Beatty). The Germans shoot down the general’s plane and hold him prisoner in a castle high in the Bavarian mountains. The team must hurry because the general knows the plans for the allied command’s second front and, if tortured, could spill the beans. For some films, that scenario would suffice, but for Where Eagles Dare that idea serves as a mere jumping off point for a far more complex story.
After a brief introduction to the men assigned to the mission and the officers in charge, Major Smith and company board the plane for Bavaria and the Schloss Adler. They jump at night to avoid detection and hold up in a mountain cabin. There we get a look at their objective, the Schloss Adler. Accessible only by cable car, the fortress sets the scene for our heroes’ daring rescue. The team first heads into the nearby town to establish their German military identities. After all, the Alpen Corps would hardly allow a gang of British soldiers to gain access to their remote stronghold. We meet a couple new characters here too. Mary Ure, British agent and Smith’s lover, gets a job as a maid at the castle and Ingrid Pitt, long in deep cover as a bawdy bar maid, poses as Ure’s cousin and vouches for her. On the German side, we meet Major von Hapen (Derren Nesbitt) of the Gestapo. With the introductions taken care of for the most part, the main story can begin.
I won’t give a blow by blow here because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I will say the story and screenplay, both written by novelist Alistair MacLean (The Guns of Navarone, Ice Station Zebra), combines flag waving action, red herrings, and dry wit to make for an entertaining film. Even at two and a half hours, the time flies thanks to the performances of Burton and Eastwood and the fabulous stunts choreographed and shot by Hollywood veteran Yakima Canutt and performed by Alf Joint. Burton and Eastwood have a nice rapport and make the most of the spare dialogue.

clint rich

Burton’s weary and unflappable Smith runs the show and has seen it all. Eastwood’s Schaffer is sharp and proficient even though he’s not quite sure about this mission.

clint gun

Canutt’s fights atop cable cars make for some of the most exciting action sequences I’ve seen. Similar scenes show up later in Bond films, but even 007 doesn’t do them as well as our team. I also love the use of explosives in Where Eagles Dare. Burton and Eastwood carry backpacks full of fun little bundles of dynamite attached to timers which end up all over the place and to put it mildly, stuff blows up good. They also have cool reversible uniforms so they can blend in the snow and look like official Nazis. The plot twists keep you guessing and the film abounds with double agents and moments of suspense.

cable car

Any description of Where Eagles Dare would be remiss if it left out the dynamic score by Ron Goodwin (Murder She Said, Village of the Damned). Catchy and memorable, you’ll find yourself humming it without even thinking. Brian G. Hutton (Kelly’s Heroes, Gunfight at the OK Corral) directed Where Eagles Dare as an action film with a spy story at its center. The film succeeds as both because Hutton, MacLean, Canutt, and the stellar cast elevate this film from a shoot ‘em up bang bang to a war film with spies and brains. I recommend it highly.

tnt

ipcress banner

The Stranger (1946)   Leave a comment

stranger-title-still

A small New England town after World War II provides the backdrop for murder and betrayal as a Nazi war criminal evades capture and settles there. Posing as a history professor at an elite boys’ school, Orson Welles thinks he has it made until a former minion arrives in town with FBI agent Edward G. Robinson at his heels. Welles must silence his former cohort and elude Robinson all while proving to new bride Loretta Young that the agent’s allegations are false. Welles, influenced by German impressionist cinema and his own aesthetic directed The Stranger using shadows and camera angles to express confusion, fear, and anxiety in his characters. The idyllic New England village with its general store and bucolic scenery serve to heighten the suspense and disbelief that such evil could lurk beneath its picture-perfect setting.
The Stranger seldom makes it onto top noir lists but it should. Welles does menacing rather well and Robinson’s quirky, but smart Mr. Wilson is fun to watch.

thestranger2

The House on 92nd Street (1945)   Leave a comment

house on 92

A stiff police/FBI procedural, The House on 92nd Street (1945) chronicles the search for a Nazi spy ring operating in the U.S. prior to WWII. Someone is smuggling parts of the formula for Process 97 (the Atomic Bomb) out of a top secret facility and the FBI, led by Agent Briggs (Lloyd Nolan) wants to find out how. The bureau has recruited Bill Dietrich (William Eythe), a German national, also recruited by German intelligence, to infiltrate the ring, pass information to the FBI, and identify the ring’s leader. Known only as Mr. Christopher, the Nazi leader has thus far eluded detection and his identity remains a secret until the end of the film. Dietrich, faked CV in hand, presents himself to the front men for the spies as a radio engineer who will pass intel to and from Hamburg. Directed by Henry Hathaway, The House on 92nd Street also stars Leo G. Carroll, Signe Hasso, and Gene Lockhart. Though not as exciting as The Naked City or He Walked by Night, or even 13 rue Madeleine, 92nd Street tells an interesting story efficiently and the actors, especially Hasso, Carroll, and Lockhart acquit themselves well.

92 street

30 Years On: 1984 a Great Year for Movies

A Review of one of the Great Years in American Cinema

Atomic Flash Deluxe

Scout's 20th Century Flash

Paula's Cinema Club

"Tiny little pieces of time they'll never forget"

Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more

You can take the girl out of Glasgow. Entertainment Reviews from a Wee Scottish Wife and Stepmum living in Finland.

CrazyDiscoStu - A nerd blog

Reviews, film/tv, gaming, tech, music, opinions, observations, nerd culture, musings and general fan-boy geekery.

ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

Our opinions don't stink!

Fade To Black

Movie & TV Reviews - Because everyone is entitled to my opinion.