The New Pictures, Mar. 16, 1942

  • Share
  • Read Later

(2 of 2)

This gantlet-run through the wilderness is the thread on which the picture's propa ganda pearls are strung. Best of them is a notable performance by Anton Walbrook as head of a Hutterite sect, of Germanic origin, who practice a kind of Christian communism in Canada's vast wheatlands. To Lieut. Portman's guttural plea that the Hutterites join their Nazi brothers in the war for Nordic supremacy, the leader replies: "Most of us are Germans, but we are not your brothers!"

As a decadent democrat against "one armed superman," purring Leslie Howard, talkily proficient, bags a Nazi. French-Canadian Trapper Olivier is less fortunate -the Nazis kill him. Invaders' star, Nazi Portman, is so good that his performance almost destroys the film's propaganda value. He and his arrogant, tough, single-purposed band struggle so well against such long odds that they become sympathetic instead of repulsive. By contrast, their democratic conquerors seem soft and befuddled.

Mister V (Small; United Artists) will not fool even the dunces in the back row. Its producer-director-star, airy Leslie Howard, played the same leading role seven years ago in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Then he was an 18th-Century English lord, airily rescuing French aristocrats imperiled by the Revolution; now he is a peripatetic British archeologist, airily saving scientists from Hitler.

As a Cambridge archeologist, Horatio Smith (Leslie Howard) is welcomed to the Germany of 1939; he has a Nazi commission to dig for traces of an Aryan civilization. In the process of proving that the progress of civilization depends on a few gifted people (mostly scientists, naturally), he excavates 20-odd live German scientists out from under the Gestapo noses.

He gets away with the feat in the best Howard manner: a polished, guileless, casual, sweet performance-restrained, incredible, a screen Englishman.

Mister I was undoubtedly designed for propaganda as well as pleasure, but the gruff Gestapo is too charmingly outfoxed to be taken seriously. The Gestapo head, biding his time, huffs: "Rome wasn't built in a day-even by Mussolini."

Good shot: to frighten some unruly concentration campers laboring in a field, the Nazi guard takes a pot shot at a nearby scarecrow; as he turns away, blood trickles down the scarecrow's hand.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next Page