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Tuesday, March 8, 2011


With news on the war rapidly improving, Errol Flynn was able to turn out the most sober, least rah-rah-rah of his WWII vehicles. Joe May, an exiled helmer from UFA, probably came up with the gimmicky story of a career criminal in France who escapes the guillotine when an RAF bombing raid destroys his prison. He’s soon re-arrested by Inspector Paul Lukas, but on the way back they run into their new destiny: 100 Frenchman are to be executed unless a resistance saboteur is found. Flynn is going to die anyway; why not die for something? Or is this just another scam? The part is a perfect match for Flynn while Lukas manages the almost impossible job of making the longshot dramatic possibilities play out in believable fashion. Helmer Raoul Walsh shows he’s just as assured handling the story’s philosophical trimmings as he is with more action-oriented assignments though a dud ingenue defeats his best efforts. The film gathers impressive emotional power as it plays out and if it’s less ambitious or provocative than HANGMEN ALSO DIE/’43, a Fritz Lang/Bertold Brecht film with similar elements, it’s a lot less choppy.

NOTE: Be sure to watch the two classic WWII-themed Looney Tunes included: Frank Tashlin’s BROTHER BRAT with its striking Rosie the Riveter prologue; and Bob Clampett’s RUSSIAN RHAPSODY with all those ‘Gremlins from the Kremlin’ attacking Hitler on a bomb run. (Most of those gremlins are caricatures of the animation staff, plus one proto-Tweetie Pie.)

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