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Monday, February 3, 2014

COMMANDOS STRIKE AT DAWN (1942)

While you can still feel how the rush to get this topical wartime pic into movies houses left it with some unresolved story construction problems and pinch-penny production issues, any loss in polish is easily made up for in urgency. With John Farrow’s straight-forward helming & Irwin Shaw’s plain-spoken script, Paul Muni radiates calm decency & resolve as a Norwegian widower watching in quiet despair as his small fishing town is first occupied, then brutalized by the Nazis. On the run after organizing the local resistance, Muni stumbles upon a secret airbase nearing completion and is forced to risk sailing past the Nazi guns to reach contacts in Britain. There would be many films like this made as the war progressed (even more after it ended), but this early entry remains effective & moving, largely because its random casualties prove unwilling to cheat death.

DOUBLE-BILL: Warner Bros. brought a more stylized, elaborate, even fantastic note, plus an all-star cast (Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan, Walter Huston, Judith Anderson), to a similar Norwegian resistance story in EDGE OF DARKNESS/’43 with Lewis Milestone helming.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Listen up for an early bit from Lloyd Bridges as a lost (and unlucky) Nazi driver. And keep your eyes open to see Lillian Gish in her modest return to Hollywood after a decade on the B'way stage.

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