With the news from overseas beginning to improve, it became possible to make a grittier sort of war movie in Hollywood. So, Errol Flynn could move away from solo heroic mode, and into an ensemble cast for this dark story about a Norwegian fishing village on the verge of imploding after two years of Nazi occupation. Without weapons, the locals can only plot, and hope for the Brits to sneak in weapons & ammo. Even then, they’ll still have to hold off until the resistence issues a Call-to-Arms . . . if only they can wait. Some of the miniatures & effects may show their age, but the film still packs an emotional wallop. Flynn is exceptional: grave and beautifully matched with Ann Sheridan, he's a believable leader who’s also a team player. And what a team to play on. In addition to Sheridan, there's Walter Huston, Ruth Gordon, Judith Anderson, Morris Carnovsky, plus Art Smith, fresh from the Group Theater as the pessimistic Osterholm, and recent emigré Helmut Dantine, astonishing as the resentful, sadistic Nazi commandant.* Robert Rosson’s script tends to hit everything right on the head (his usual fault), but composer Franz Waxman (playing theme & variations on ‘A Mighty Fortress’) and lenser Sid Hickox (with startling telephoto/zoom shots rarely seen then) do things up right. Helmer Lewis Milestone always retained the static composition style he learned in the silents (his films come with edit ‘bumps’), but he’s near his best here. With his signature battle scenes that were not only kinetically exciting, but clearly staged & spatially believable. Flawed, propagandistic, but also very much more than the sum of its parts. (And don’t forget to watch the double dose of cartoons on the DVD, including a Chuck Jones/DAFFY DUCK classic.)
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Was Stephen Spielberg thinking of this performance when he cast Ralph Fiennes in SCHINDLER’S LIST/’93?