Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Doctor in the House (1954)

Dirk Bogarde enters medical school, and through his five years of training, juggles his lessons and horseplay with fellow classmates. A relationship with a nurse further adds to the complications.
            This amusing comedy has no real plot, per say. It mostly consists of vignettes surrounding Bogarde and his three medical school chums. Much of the amusement comes from the contrast between the juvilie activites the students do to pass the time: women chasing, playing rugby, drinking, etc and their very serious classes and studies.
            This was a very fun, sometimes hiloarious film. The acting was top notch, and the medical humor has not aged badly.
            To me, the biggest surprice was Dirk Bogarde. I think of him as a completely serious actor, and with exeption of So Long at the Fair this was the first time that I have seen him play something that was so…well…comic and happy.  And he was great! I especially love his reaction to when he discovers, after falling through the skylight (its complicated), that he has landed in the head nurse’s bedroom. Also amusing was Kenneth More, again an actor who I associate with serious roles, and again someone who pleasantly surprised me with his performace as a medical student who only decides to attempt to graduate by his girlfriend’s threat of going to Sweeden to marry a “real doctor.”
            All of this climaxes in probably the most epic chase involving an ambulance and a stuffed gorilla, and a very amusing final exam segment. Not all of the characters end up graduating, but they all end up in a happy ending.
            My advise? See it, especially if you’ve been to medical school.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Video!

The cause for my lack of updates for almost two months! I have been working on the final for my Cinema class this semester. It was supposed to be a "personal narrative project". Therefore, I decided to illustrate my love of movies by using a combination of found footage and audio clips, the latter being used with myself and a friend reenacting scenes from movies.

Hope you enjoy it.

Footage and audio were taken from the following films (in alphabetical order):

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
The Band Wagon (1953)
The Beggar's Opera (1953)
The Blob (1958)
Body and Soul (1947)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Contraband (1940)
Dark of the Sun (1968)
Death Race 2000 (1975)
Dinner at Eight (1933)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Gun Crazy (1950)
Guys and Dolls (1955)
His Girl Friday (1940)
Horror of Dracula (1958)
It's Love I'm After (1937)
Middle of the Night (1959)
Night and the City (1950)
Of Mice and Men (1939)
Picnic (1955)
Pretty Poison (1968)
Psycho (1960)
The Public Enemy (1931) 
Roaring Twenties (1939)
The Set-Up (1949)
Scarlett Street (1945)
The Spy in Black (1939)
A Star is Born (1937)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Tom, Dick, and Harry (1941)
The Trial (1962)
Warlock (1959)
White Heat (1949)
Winchester '73 (1950)
Winterset (1937)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941)

The life story of an college English teacher, from entering college to her retirement. Along the way, she must deal with happiness and disappointment, love and loss.
            Boy, oh boy, what to say about this movie. This is a stinker of a old melodrama. The sentimentalty and cloyness is so overpowers the film like a flood of molasses.
            How can it be this sentimental? Well get out your checklist of Elements of a Hollywood melodrama, and start checking the following things off: Sympathetic, self sacrificing main female character; everyone’s lives revolving around said female character; devoted male friend; sluttly relavtive/friend who steals love intrest; different love intrest is already married; flashbacks… the list goes on and on.
            It is worth noting that in the rare moments that this film is reviewed, it is often compared to Goodbye, Mr. Chips. That is easy to understand. After all, they both focus on the lives of a teacher. Alas, I myself cannot provided proper comparison, as I’ve seen just once years ago, and barely remember it.
            This was a rather forgettable movie, dispite Martha Scott providing a very good perferomance as the titular Miss Bishop, beliviably aging from her twenties to seventies. And Sterling Haloway (of Disney voice acting fame) creates some amusing moments as a Swedish gardner whose roses are always being trampeled.
            My biggest complaint was with how the film showed the passing of time: going over 50 years of history and relationships in 90 minutes allowed for a (relatively) fast moving story, but at the cost of beter understanding of other characters' motivations, in addition to their and their relationship with Miss Bishop.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Make Me a Star (1932)

A young man (Stuart Erwin) in a small town dreams of being a Western star. He goes to Hollywood and practically camps out at the casting office at a studio where his favorite actor works. Unfortunately, he lacks something important: talent. This does not deter him, and even when he has to rummage through tossed out lunchboxes for food, he keeps on waiting. Finally, a comic actress (the always wonderful Joan Bondell) takes pity on him, and regognizing his talent for unitentianl comedy, gets him hired for a comic western. There is catch: he thinks that he is a drama.
            Though there are certainly amusing moments, this is not a conventional Hollywood comedy. This one is actually carries an aura of bittersweetness. As much as we giggle at the Hero’s optimistic naivety and bad film acting throughout the film, we can’t help but feel sorry for him, and be haunted by the sence that any moment his dreams will come crashing down on him. The ending is also unusual in that spoiler alert it does not end up with the hero accepting his fate to be laughed at and staying in Hollywood: he is far too hurt and sad to actually do this, is on the way to go back home.
            But really the main the reason to see the film is just how it portrays Hollywood filmmaking. Just looking at the enormous cameras is worth the price of admission. There are also the boom mikes, carts used to well the cameras around, cardboard sets… the list goes on and on. Best of all, there is scene that shows the creation of an early form of blue screen effect. Except instead of using a blue screen, it was black velvet. Weird.
            Overall, if you are an old movie fan, and are courious to see how films were made in the early 1930’s, this is a must-see. Oh, and keep your eyes open: there are plenty of cameos of Paramount stars from the period.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Time Limit (1957)

During the Korean War, a group of solders in POW camp in North Korea watch as one of them is shoot trying to escape. Soon afterward, another soldier (Richard Baseheart) suddenly becomes a mouthpiece of their capture’s communist propaganda. What was his reason? After the war is over, that is what a lawyer, played by Richard Widmark, is trying to find out.
            This solo directorial effort by character actor Karl Malden in an intriguing and sometimes surprising cross between a detective story and semi-courtroom drama. I use the term "semi"because the events of the movie are shown to be leading up to an almost certain court marshal. Therefore, most of the revelations do not take place in a courtroom with numerous persons, but in the small office of Widmark, in intense question and answer sessions.
            This intimacy is one of the films many positive assets. The acting is in top form, if not a little over-the-top (most the cast seems to be trying to give Oscar worthy performances). The dialoge always has your attention, even if it feels that the characters are speaking in monologues, rather than statements, revealing its stage bound origins.
            For the time, this movie refuses to provide easy answers, or even a conventional happy ending. There is no real antagonist, unless you count the North Koreans who imprisoned the solders, glimesed in the opening, as well as in lengthy flashbacks. The soldiers are presented as victims of starvation, cold, and impatience, and just not able (to quote another movie) “to take it anymore”.
            Overall this movie is definitely worth your time. Its plot, acting and passing are above average, and its willingness to look at how man can be reduced to his baser instincts through extreme means prevent it from aging too much (with the exeption of how the female secretary is presented, but that is another story).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Princess O'Rourke (1943)

Once upon a time, there was a Princess. She was living far away from her homeland, in a place called New York City. She was sad, because she felt like she was in a gilded cage. One day, her Uncle decieded to send her to California to cheer her up. But the Princess hated flying, so she ended up taking five sleeping pills to knock herself out. Unfortunately, these pills worked too well, and when the plane had to return to New York City because of weather issues, no one could rouse her from her slumber. Thankfully, a hansome young pilot took her to his apartment to sleep it off. When she awoke, he was not there, but they managed to meet again and fall in love.
            This was a very cute film. All of the performances are very good, especially Olivia De Haveland. She is aloud to show off some comedic gifts which I did not suspect that she possessed. Nowhere is it as obvious than when she is on the plane: continually taking pills, with a slow effect, but suddenly hitting the mark, and she collapses in one of the most graceful ways possible.
            The music can be a bit overbearing, adding light hearted emphasis to every action that is in the most remote way funny. And don’t get me started on the propaganda. After all, this was made during the war, and it does not let us forget it. There are mentions of the air force, women practice badanging a haplace deHaveland, and there is of course, a speech by the hero saying how glad he is to be an American and looing forward to providing a good answer to “What did you do in the war, daddy?”
            Dispite that, I really liked this movie: I wish that it was more widely know. Modern comedies today could take a page  on its timing, as well as inuendos. For example: “Honey, are you lucky I was raised right!” (it makes more sense in context)

5 reasons to see A Woman's Face (1941)

1. Seeing The Awesomeness That Is Conrad Veidt dancing in a Swedish Conga Line.

2. Some very nice B&W cinematography (as you can tell from the pictures)

3. Impressive, yet subtle burn make-up, which comes with Joan Crawford's impressive, memorable performance as disfigured woman-turned-criminal-turned-nanny.

4. Melvyn Douglas' amicable and likable performance as a gifted plastic surgen who so happens  to specialize in burn victims.

5. Conrad Veidt (again). Seriously, who else could make the description of someone else as   "a dove, a tame cowing dove. soft and weak and full of love for her fellow men" sound so sinister?

Friday, July 29, 2011

New Video: A Val Lewton Fanvid

I love Val Lewton films. And I love a good film montage. So, I thought, why combine both?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What a Disaster!

After seeing the classic (???) disaster films The Towering Inferno and Earthquake, a certain similarity between them struck me as both interesting, yet bewildering.

It wasn't the cardboard characters, the emphasis on special effects, the amazingly corny dialog, or how  overlong they were. It was this:

The filmmakers have some kind of grudge against skyscrapers.

Both films have gung-ho male leads who wail at some point about how whatever gimmicky disaster featured could have been averted if mankind had been content to have short buildings, instead of building great towers that seem to welcome Armageddons with open arms.

Well, they don't put it so eloquently, but you get the idea. There is plenty of hate going around for tall buildings. Not the lazy government people (and believe me, they always turn up in these kinds of films), not the shoddy cuntruction that contributes to the descruction and the loss of lives. But the building itself.

So in the mindset of the films:

Skyscrapers = Towers of Babel = magnets for disaster = Bad news for mankind!

Both images from

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why "Return to Oz" (1985) is the Scariest Film Disney Ever Made.

People who think all Disney films are sentimental sod buckets are wrong. Dead wrong. Many of them have the dubious honor of traumatizing many a child. Bambi, The Black Hole, The Lion King...and this film. I have seen this for the first time about a week ago, and boy, was I overwhelmed.

6. The Deadly Desert
This surrounds the Marvelous Land of Oz. Anyone who is unlucky enough to touch it is turned into sand. You only see this happen to the horrible Wheelers, but still...

5. The (Practically) Deserted Emerald City
Just showing Dorothy wandering through the ruined City, with its crumbling walls and eerie statues of what used to be people, is just plain eerie. It doesn't help to know what it contains as well....

4.The Wheelers

This creatures may stink at capturing Dorothy (I blame their lack of hands), but that does not prevent them from being utterly terrifying. This is where sound effects help to add to the fear factor. The squeaky wheels and their sharp screams to alert their fellows, and their echoing laughter is enough to make any child eye their bike with more than a little dread.

3. The Nome King and his Minions

The Stones.....they are watching you. No puggy humanoid creatures from the Oz books are these. The Nomes are Rocks with faces. Or are they faces that so happen to be attached to rocks?  What can be said about them is that they are just plain malicious. And you don't want to get the Nome King mad....

2. Mombi and her Heads

Mombi is a witch. She collects heads. This heads can scream if you cross them. Did I mention that Mombi can walk around without a head?

1. Dorothy's Trials

She nearly goes through electroshock therapy, drowns in a monstrous rainstorm, gets beheaded, falls to her death, get turned into an ornament...and oh so much more. You would have to hard pressed to find another child who goes through so many near-death experiences in a film (unless it is part of the Harry Potter Series). It is no wonder that she spends half the film with a terrified look on her face.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Little Experiment: Part 2

I did it. I rewatched Man with a Thousand Faces (1957), fulfilling the plans of my past post. It is rather strange, viewing something from my youth, at the dawning of my interest in old films. And what can I say about this second viewing experience?

Well, for one thing, I now know what it must feel for a baseball fan to watch The Pride of the Yankees or  Fear Strikes Out: plenty of (mostly fictional) elaboration on the personal life of the real-life protagonist, and not enough visualization of what made them great. Now, sometimes that it understandable. Lord knows how much more I could stand to watch Anthony Perkins play ball like a girl when portraying Jimmy Piersall.

But I digress. I am not here to discuss baseball biopics, but an actor biopic, specifically of the legendary  Lon Chaney Sr. And boy, is this a whopper. It begins with Chaney's youth, raised by deaf-mute parents.

He works in Vaudville with his wife (Dorothy Malone), who is unlikable because she:

1. Has a paranoid fear of their unborn child (and future Wolf Man) being born deaf

2. Puts her singing career before her family

Because she is such a bad mother, Chaney divorces her, and gets a relatively steady job getting extra work and bit parts in the picture business. He gets married to a wonderful woman (Jane Greer), and his carer takes off after his work as a fake cripple in The Miracle Man.

I guess that I should point  out that Cagney was about 56 when he made this film, 9 years older than Chaney was when he died. While age differences between actors and their real-life counterparts are far from unusual, in this case it is especially jarring.

There are reenactments of scenes from such classic Cagney films as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera, and Laugh Clown Laugh. This would cool, if they got the frickin' reenactments right! But I could let those pass by, were it not for one thing...The make-up.

Good Lord, the make-up. Or should, I say, the really crude rubber masks that bare no resemblance to Chaney's original classic designs. I know that Cagney's face was rounder than Chaney's, so that they would not look similar, but still...the horror, the horror.

My memories of the film were pretty close, considering it had been about 10 years since I last saw it. I don't why certain parts stuck out so much. It wasn't because I considered it a particularly great film at the time, and I still don't, but there must have been something that intrigued me. At the time I first watched it, I must have already known about Chaney and his make-up creations. It is quite possibly my first bio-pic.
Overall, I thought that it was an okay, if disappointing film.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What a Story!

(Vincent Price was born 100 years ago today. I thought that this occasion deserved a special post)

Let me tell you a story. It is the outline of a film that I saw not too long ago. Based on a classic piece of literature, it was strange, dark, and intriguing. It left an impression on me. And here it goes:

Once upon a time, there was a girl in England

She appeared uninteresting, but she was full of determination

One day, she traveled not to far away from a forboding old house

Due to an accident with a horse, she met the owner of the house, a brooding and mysterious man.

She was intrigued by this man.

She did not know much of his past, but that did not prevent her from being attracted to him.

But something came between their relationship

A woman

But not just any woman: it was the man's wife.

This dark haired beauty haunted his house and his mind.

Eventually, it ended in flames.

The wife is destroyed in the flame, but at a great cost to the man.

Among other things, he loses his eyesight.

But the girl ends up Okay.

The End

And this is the basic outline of one of the most original and strange classic films that I have ever seen...

And it is called..

Jane Eyre

oh wait....don't get me wrong, I really like this film (the Orson Welles version, at least)

No, I am talking about a real classic:

The Tomb of Ligeia

Sure, it takes plot points from Jane Eyre, in addition to the flaming finale (complete with footage from House of Usher) from previous  Roger Corman-Vincent Price-Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.
 Though I do not consider it the best film that meshed these three men together (that would be a tie between Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum).

But I still love it.

Maybe it is the over elaborate dialogue.

One such tasty morsel occurs during Vernon's (our "hero", played wonderfully by Price) brief wooing of Lady Rowena (an equally great Elizabeth Shepard).

"Your makes a shamble of the light."

Maybe it is the lovely shots of the English countryside.

As well as the foreboding cobwebed interiors of Vernon's manor.

Perhaps it is the direction, the acting, the cinematography, the cliché's that occur in all of Corman's Poe films.....

Or maybe it is the story, which turns Jane Eyre

On its head

Inside out

and traps it in mists of Misery


and Dispair.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

West of Zanzibar (1927) vs. Kongo (1932)

Violence, Sex, Prostitution, Corruption, Drug Addition, Alcoholism, Torture, Sadism, Murder....

Welcome, my friends, to old Hollywood's vision of Black Africa: where the natives are superstitious, the white men stinkers, and the women are...., well, not the type you would take home to meet mother.

Ah, but it is the habitat of a certain fiend known as Deadlegs Flint, a tough paraplegic who, for the eighteen years that he has inhabited his hut in the middle of the jungle, has been focused on one thing, and one thing only: Revenge. Revenge on the man that cost him his legs, his wife, and his pride. In the meantime, he plots and plans. If he can't harm this man directly, Flint knows the next best thing that will devastate his enemy hardest: the ruin of his daughter.

And how! For all those who think that all old movies are quaint and tame, and oh so fluffy, the silent West of Zanzibar and the pre-code Kongo should prove to be an eyefull. These are a pair of strange and disturbing films, both different versions of the same tale. They are adaptions of a Broadway play called Kongo, and some of the actors from the original Broadway run return to reprise their roles in the film of the same name. Unfortunately, I am not able to say which version sticks closer to the one presented on the stage, for the script was never published, and I have yet to track down a manuscript of the original.

The men who play Flint on screen, Lon Chaney in the former and Walter Huston in the latter, are both great. They are imposing, cruel, and very memorable. I rather like how the silent presents Flint before his life was ruined, showing what a nice, good man his was before Lionel Barrymore entered his life (and yes, Barrymore did play S.O.Bs before It's a Wonderful Life (1946), and boy, is he detestable here). That makes the broken and cruel figure that he becomes all the more intriguing and horrifying.

But Walter Huston is just plain mean, if not more so. Heck, he threatens to twist his mistress's tongue with a piece of wire (and from his and everyone's reactions, you can tell that he has done this before). He is not just satisfied with letting his wife's daughter grow up in an African brothel, as Chaney did in the silent version. No, Huston has her raised in a convent, and then throws her into a brothel when she turns 18.
....and After.
Which one do I prefer? Actually, I think Kongo, on the whole, is superior. It felt less stagy than the silent, had, if not better, more memorable actors (Lupe Valez is a special treat), and frankly conjured up a better sense of depravity and perversity. But do not let that deter you from seeing Zanzibar; Chaney's performance alone is worth the price of admission, and he is in top form here, making a more persuasive paraplegic than Huston.

The bad news: Zanzibar is not available on video (though you can see its minuscule form on youtube). The good news: Kongo is, thanks to Warner Archives. Be sure to check them out, as they are unforgettable examples of how far Hollywood could go before a certain Code was enforced.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Little Experiment: Part 1

It is funny what one can remember about a film one has seen once a long, long time ago. There are moments, flashes that are very clear, but not enough to form a coherent.

One of these films that fits the description is Man of a Thousand Faces (1957), a bio-pic staring James Cagney, who portrays the great silent actor and make-up master Lon Chaney This film is rather special,  because not only does it have the honor of being my first Cagney film, but also my cinematic introduction to the works of Chaney himself.

Just for the heck of it, I will see just how accurate these 10+ year old memories of mine are: In this post, I will jot down everything that I remember about the film, (in as close to chronological order that I can muster). I will then watch it for the second time in my life, and see how accurate my memories are.

It starts out in Chaney's childhood. You see him on his way home, it looks like he was in a fight. His young sister chides him, saying that Mama would not be happy. He goes to his mother, and comunicates with her in sign langue, ( one of these gesetures looks like clap). She "talks" with him, and that brings a smile to his face.

When he is an adult, he is in 1919's The Miracle Man (as I have latter figured out). The scene is filmed in which he is a twisted up criple who crawls towards a prist. The prist lifts his hand, looking holy, and Chaney untwists him self slowly. He emotionally kisses the man's hand. The scene finished, Chaney stands up and procededs to do a little tap dance.

He is married to a woman who obsessed with their baby being born deaf, because of Chaney's parents. The baby's post-birth spanking is shown in silhouette in the hospital, and the wife is at first happy because the baby is crying, but becomes upset when the doctor tells her that crying is not influenced by what he hears.

Later, Chaney stands over the baby's crib, with his wife the background. She has continued to express worry that their son is deaf. Exasperated, he claps his hands loudly, and the baby cries. The parents are relived, and comfort the child.

The wife meets Chaney's parents, and greets them with a shy "hello", but is surprised when she finds out by default that they are deaf. She goes away to cry, and Chaney talks with his mom and she brings a smile to his face, echoing the beginning of the film. He then goes to his wife, and tells him that his Mom was right: that he should have told his wife that they were deaf.

The a filming of the whipping scene in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) is interrupted by some people, and there is an argument between them and Chaney (while he is still in make-up, which does not look similar to the original film).

The famous unmasking scene from The Phantom of the Opera (1925) is being filmed. Christine (with long blonde hair, for some reason) is sneaking up behind the masked Phantom, who preoccupied with playing the organ. She removes the mask from behind, and faints with shock when she sees his hideous visage. The Phantom (who has long straight white hair, for some reason) looks down at her still figure, and collapses from grief. After a call of "cut", Chaney and the actress get up, and they walk off while he pats her hand, talking cordially.

Chaney gets remarried to a nice, non-nerotic woman. You know she is nice, because she talks to the parents in sign language and hugs them.

Chaney and his son are talking in sign language at the edge of a dock. His second wife asks what's going on, Chaney says that they are having a "guy talk", and continues to sign.

Chaney is on his deathbed. No longer able to talk, he communicates with sign language. He tells his son to pick him his old make-up box. The son obeys, and Chaney takes out a piece of chalk and adds "Jr." to the end of his name. He smiles, and dies.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Little Something for all Conrad Veidt fans

For a few months now, YouTube user ConnieVeidt has been uploading clips from our favorite German actor's films. Some of the titles have, until now, been completely unknown to me. It would be nice if entire films were given instead of tempting snippits, but beggars can't be choosers.
ConnieVeidt has also made a nice montage of his surviving movies. I wish the music was a bit was more rockin' and badass, but hey, there is plenty of Veidt, and that makes it automatically epic.
So if you feel like you can't get enough of the Awesomeness That is Conrad Veidt, be sure to check out this channel.

P.S. Judging from this footage, if his Cesare Borgia went against all the other fictional ones (including Orson Welles) Veidt would most certainly win in the unashamed villainy department.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Decision Before Dawn (1951)

In the closing months of World War 2 in Europe, the US Army undertakes a mission to use German POWs to work for them in enemy territory. One of these prisoners is a medic who volunteers because he actually believes that it is the right thing to do, after seeing his fellow prisoners kill his best friend. His journey causes him to bump into different Germans with different feelings towards the war.

Visually, this film is a treat.  This was filmed on location, and you can tell. There are shots of snow-covered mountains, thick woods, and bombed-out buildings that are truly breathtaking. The camerawork is also very impressive: not show-offish, but fluid and smooth, moving from location to location without being distracting. Most of all, the lighting was incredible, with scenes that look like they could have been taken from a film noir of the 40's instead of war film from the 50's.

It amuses me that this this the second Richard Baseheart movie in a row that I have seen that has "treason" as a central theme. Except in the previous film (Time Limit) he himself was the treacherous one  and, but that is another story. Though he is top billed, I do not consider him the "star." That honor goes to Oskar Werner, whom Classic film fans may recognize from Jules and Jim, as the idealistic traveling POW. He gives a very haunting performance, as does Hildegard Knef in a small role as a cynical and sad bar girl.
On the whole, this film is rather slow going, but worth it. It joins the exclusive club of films that have been nominated for Oscars (including Best Picture), and completely forgotten about. And that is a shame, because it is a well put-together thriller. True, there is not too much "thrill" in large amounts, at least until the final half-hour. But don't that deter you from checking this interesting film out.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Mortal Storm (1940)

Ah, the World War 2 propaganda know, there should be a study of propaganda films. It is really fascinating how one can try to persuade the viewer to take their side in a issue. In World War 2, of course there were a bunch of films that showed how evil the Nazis were, in addition to showing that good old USA was on the side of good. This was not unusual: what is unusual is an American anti-Nazi film made before 1941, when the country entered the war. That got it banned in Germany, despite the studio trying its best to make location as vague as necessary (and failing at it).

This is where The Mortal Storm fits into the scheme of things. It takes place in a German town, not too far from the Austrian border. It is about a family with a Jewish---sorry, "non-Ayran" patriarch (Frank Morgan), and how they are is divided by Nazism. While the parents, daughter (Margaret Sullivan), and family friend (James Stewart) are very much outspoken against Hitler, their twin sons (one of which is strangely young Robert Stack) and daughter's fiancé (Robert Young) reveal a strong fidelity to Hitler which literally comes out of nowhere.

And that is the film's greatest flaw: The complete complete 180 that those characters go through. There is no hint before their conversion that they followed Nazisim. They go from "Hi, Jewish step-father/professor, we are so happy to celebrate your birthday!" to "Germany must regain its glory and take over the world!" at the drop of a hat, and that did not ring true for me.

But besides that, this was a very well-made film. The acting is really good all around, with a special shout out to Margret Sullivan and James Stewart. Both of them regain their chemistry from The Shop Around the Corner (1940), and it helps to involve the audience further in their plight and in clinging onto their steadfast beliefs amide the turmoil surrounding them.

Another special shout out has to go towards the cinematography.  There is some really fluid camera work, and some of the shots are beautifully put together. Also, the skiing scenes in the mountains very nicely filmed, though slightly ruined when intercut with shots of the actors leaning forward in front of mattes (seriously, it is possible for someone to ski downhill wearing a fedora, without it being blown off)?

Why is this film not better known? Perhaps because it has been over-shadowed be more prestigious, award-winning films of the same caliber made later (Casablanca, Mr. Miniver, etc). Who knows? What I do know is that this one of the better American WW2 propaganda film that I have seen, and that it deserves more attention.