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Most of the shots were made by Russian cameramen accompanying the Soviet troops who pushed the Germans away from Moscow last winter. Their work makes a bitter, revealing, angry document. It shows, where words fail, the enormous physical impetus required to get a military offensive going in the paralyzing cold of the Russian winter. It also shows, by acres of matériel that the retreating Germans left behind, that their withdrawal was by no means strategic.
Some of the photography is spectacularly good. One of the 15 cameramen who made the film accompanied a paratroop division on an attack behind the German lines. It is all there, from the white-robed troops bailing out of their transport planes to the mopping up of their village objective. The shots of direct shell hits on Soviet tanks, of skiborne infantry dropping like dead birds before Nazi rifle and machine-gun fire, are as close to the front lines as movie-goers can safely get.
There are searing views of Nazi atrocities, which are allowed to speak for themselves: frozen Russians hanging grotesquely from a gallows; a roomful of naked children left like animal carcasses in a refrigerator; weeping women combing the piled-up dead as Russian troops hurry through the smoking villages after the enemy; the ruins of three national shrines: the country homes of Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov.
Moscow Strikes Back is not essentially a propaganda film. It is a record which scarcely needs the restrained narration of Cinemactor Edward G. Robinson. It is full of information and surprises. The voice of Stalin addressing his people on the Soviet 4th of July (Nov. 7) is startlingly unlike the acrobatic orating of modern dictators. Russian Army and Air Force equipment is excellent and plentiful. Superb shots of the Red Army assembled in Moscow's Red Square under a cold November sun show a well-disciplined and equipped force of spirited professional soldiers who look as if they knew their business.
Moscow Strikes Back is also the best newsreel yet made of Russians. For once, the cameramen's equipment is good enough to show Russians as they are, not as they have generally been shown: blurred figures on a scratchy film.
Ace cameraman of Moscow Strikes Back is Alexander Schneiderov, who, while shooting the sequence on the paratroop raid deep in enemy territory, was machine-gunned by German night fighter planes as he parachuted to earth. Despite his wound, he fought and photographed for 25 days, until the Red Army caught up with the paratroopers.
Pardon My Sarong (Universal). Abbott & Costello, the outrageously low comics who are Hollywood's best-selling double feature, have made this picture, under various titles (Buck Privates, Ride 'Em Cowboy, etc.), about once every three months since their cinemadvent a year and a half ago. Like their aged-in-wood gags, it now has a chiefly historical charm.
As a magician trying to pull a hat out of a rabbit, a seaman shaving in a hurricane, slapsticky Lou Costello is a successful clown. But most of it is South Sea stuffing, Hollywood style, with only two notable exceptions: a breakaway tune called Vingo Jingo (authors: Don Raye and Gene DePaul), and radio's vibrant-voiced Nan Wynn, now visible for the first time after her anonymous role as Rita Hayworth's singing voice in My Gal Sal (TIME, May 4).
CURRENT & CHOICE