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Saturday, December 26, 2015

THE UNWRITTEN CODE (1944)

This little Columbia B-pic can’t quite put over its nifty wartime story. (From German refugee Robert Wohlman and vet Hollywood hack Charles Kenyon.) It starts well, right in the water after a Nazi U-Boat sinks a British ship loaded with (Irony Alert!) German POWs. Two German prisoners clamber onto a lifeboat where they find a wounded British officer, steal his uniform, then toss the still living man into the sea. One of the two, a British educated Nazi thinks he can ‘pass’ as the dead Brit and try to locate his fellow Nazis once they reach Stateside Prisoners’ Camp. Then what? An insurrection? A bit of nationalist mayhem? Opportunity may knock. And the set up only gets better once we’re ashore since the romantic couple who unknowing get in the middle of the Nazi plot are none other than Ann Savage & Tom Neal, soon to appear in Edgar G. Ulmer’s classic zero-budget DETOUR/’45 as the noir couple from Hell. Heck, there’s even a future Oscar®-winning lenser on board in Burnett Guffey to help one-time megger Herman Rotsten. Alas, the film's still largely a series of missed dramatic opportunities. But that needn’t stop you from fixing it up inside your head. Start by killing off the two tiny tykes who take on the Nazis with pellet rifles.

DOUBLE-BILL: In similar vein, B-pics like HITLER’S MADMAN/’43 and HITLER’S CHILDREN/’43 got Hollywood careers going for Douglas Sirk & Edward Dmytryk. Good luck finding copies.

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