Commandos Strike at Dawn (Columbia) is the coolest, most workmanlike job of fighting that Hollywood has yet produced. This authentic picture of the devil dogs of this war has none of the phony nourishes or mushy fantasy of most Hollywood war films; in it is hardly a melodramatic line. A Norway raid is carried out with letter-perfect realism. Yet for all its realism the raid is strangely unexciting.
One reason is that Commandos unwisely attempts to combine two pictures in one. Picture No. 2the raidis overshadowed by Picture No. 1the stirring story of the Norwegian fishing village where the raid eventually takes place. Acted with superb restraint by Paul Muni and an excellent cast including Elizabeth Fraser, Ray Collins and Lillian Gish (in her first picture since His Double Life in 1934), the story tells about the transformation of the villagers after the arrival of motorized Nazi soldiers, who strike the quiet village with the impact of a powder-plant explosion. The peaceful villagers, goaded by Nazi beatings and killings, finally strike back under Leader Eric Toreson (Paul Muni), who says: "We must learn to be gangsters, thugs, useful with knife, sandbag, dynamite, noose, club and poison. ..."
When Toreson, having killed the Nazi commander, escapes to England to lead back a Commando expedition, the mood of the picture changes: Picture No. 2 is not a story but a lesson in Commando tactics. With bagpipes wailing, the Commandos set out in an auxiliary cruiser. At dawn they slip overside into barges, swarm up the Norwegian cliffs and surprise a Nazi airfield. The camera dwells admiringly on their knife work and deadly hand-to-hand skill.
In the interest of greater realism, Producer Lester Cowan and Director John Farrow (who directed Wake Island) filmed the entire picture on the rugged crags of Vancouver Island. For the Commando sequences they had as actors actual Commandos-in-training of the Canadian Army, and among their technical advisers was Major General A. E. Potts, who organized the first actual Commando raid in Norway. But as a picture of war, Director Farrow's Commando lacks the force of his Wake Island.
Shadow of a Doubt (Universal) has the makings of a superb film: Alfred Hitchcock directed it; Thornton Wilder and Sally Benson helped write it; two of Hollywood's best young actorsTeresa Wright (Pride of the Yankees) and Joseph Gotten (The Magnificent Ambersons)play in it. The result: a superb film.
This Hitchcock masterpiece has the same general theme as his Suspicion (TIME, Nov. 17, 1941)the slow, terrible growth of fear of a loved one. But Shadow, from beginning to end, is a surpassingly better picture. Its horror is compounded by its setting: an exquisitely commonplace family in a familiar small California town. Mama (Patricia Collinge) is a fluttery hen whose family has become too much for her. The kids have begun to read novels and spout homilies to their parents. Papa (Henry Travers) and his crony (Hume Cronyn) are detective-story fans who get together every night after supper to trade amiable schemes for murdering each other. And daughter (Teresa Wright) is at the moonstruck age when she cannot bear the family's dullness a moment longer.