This film version of John Steinbeck's novel (and play) about the Nazi occupation of a Norwegian village during WW II is superb, despite the lack of name stars. The film opens with the invasion of Norway by the German army and the village being occupied by troops under the command of
Hardwicke, an intelligent German officer of the old school who believes that Nazi cruelty and punishments only bring about acts of vengeful sabotage and needless killing. He tries to persuade local authorities to cooperate but at every turn the villagers resist. His men are killed, his phone lines
cut, his rail lines blown up with dynamite dropped by British planes. He appeals to town mayor Travers but the old man is a wily opponent. Ballentine, as a traitorous Quisling, lobbies for wholesale extermination of those who have resisted the Nazi rule and Hardwicke at last concurs. Town
authorities are rounded up and sent to the gallows while citizens look on in horror. Travers, ever the gentleman, slips as he walks toward the hangman and then thanks a German soldier for helping him to his feet. Bowdon, a woman widowed by a Nazi firing squad, takes her revenge for the slaughter
of the officials by inviting Nazi officer Van Eyck into her bedroom where she stabs him to death. In the end the Nazis are defeated, but at the cost of many Norwegian lives.
This is a grim but moving propaganda film which benefits from Johnson's deft screenplay. He improves upon the original novel which was a well-written though overwrought piece of propaganda that sold more than a million copies. As a play, it ran nine weeks on Broadway (but was a huge success on the
road). Fox paid the author a whopping $300,000 for the book and lost a great deal of money at the box office, but produced an outstanding film, tautly directed by Pichel (who also plays a small part as an innkeeper). Travers and Hardwicke are superb and Cobb is wonderful as the humanitarian
village doctor. Bowdon, who played the pregnant young woman in John Ford's THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940) is also outstanding as the young widow. (Nepotism worked well here; she was married to producer/screenwriter Johnson.) Harsh and somber, the film dealt with the unsavory subject of slave labor to
which Fox mogul Darryl Zanuck attributed its unpopular status. Said Zanuck later: "Any story about Germany or labor slaves appalls me. Every picture yet made dealing with occupied countries, including THE MOON IS DOWN, has laid a magnificent egg with the public. I can imagine no subject less
inviting to an audience than the subject of slave labor." Newman's score is excellent, as are the village sets. The set from HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY was used for this film.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This film version of John Steinbeck's novel (and play) about the Nazi occupation of a Norwegian village during WW II is superb, despite the lack of name stars. The film opens with the invasion of Norway by the German army and the village being occupied by… (more)