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Superior early wartime film about 'peace societies' with real Blitz footage
This is a superior early wartime 'message picture' containing a great deal of real footage of the London Blitz, not all of which I recognised. Richard Greene and Valerie Hobson play two journalists working for the newspaper, the London Gazette, and much of the film takes place in the newsroom. The film's plot largely concerns a British 'peace society' which has been heavily infiltrated by Nazi agents. Anyone who doubts that that is how things worked with the Nazis has only to read the two books INSIDE THE GESTAPO and INSIDE INFORMATION by the high-ranking Gestapo defector (who reported directly to Heydrich) Hansjuergen Koehler to get the true picture. That is precisely how the Gestapo used the 'peace societies', as fronts for espionage and subversion. The Soviet Union did the same thing. It is such a standard and obvious technique that it is a wonder that anyone is left who does not see it clearly, but there are always fools aplenty. This film's message is thus very direct, but also very correct. It is warning the British public not only about appeasers, which abounded in Britain (Neville Chamberlain being the most prominent!), but about the woolly-headed idealists pursuing 'peace', which simply cannot be done with people like the Nazis. (See Dame Flora Robson's amazing performance in GUNS AT BATASI, 1964, for perhaps the best portrayal of a 'peace junkie' out of her depth.) There are numerous old faithfuls in the supporting cast, Basil Radford as a good buy, Roland Culver as a bad guy, Andre Morrell as a Gestapo agent, Frederick Cooper as a 'peace junkie' who discovers he has been manipulated by the Nazis and who then is to be seen pouring more sweat from terror than if he had been under twenty arc lights, and plenty of other excellent character actors. The film is well directed by Harold French, one of the directors of the three excellent Somerset Maugham anthologies (QUARTET, TRIO, and ENCORE), and who lived to be 100 years old (1897-1997)! Strange to think the last feature film he directed was in 1955 (THE MAN WHO LOVED REDHEADS with Moira Shearer) and that he then lived another 42 years. I wonder what he was doing. The film is based on a story by its producer, Anthony Havelock-Allan, famous for producing David Lean's BRIEF ENCOUNTER (for which he was uncredited), Lean's GREAT EXPECTATIONS, Lean's RYAN'S DAUGHTER, Franco Zeffirelli's ROMEO AND JULIET, and many more. He died in 2003, just before turning 99. So between them, the producer and the director of this film lived for just under 200 years. What were they taking? Maybe if we all watch this film 100 times we will all live forever.
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