Hitler’s Madman (1943)

Hitler’s Madman (1943)

“You think words will stop the Nazis?”

During World War II, Czechoslovakian resistance fighters — led by paratrooper Karel Vavra (Alan Curtis) — plot to assassinate Nazi Commander Reinhard Heydrich (John Carradine), with devastating consequences.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Assassination
  • Douglas Sirk Films
  • John Carradine Films
  • Nazis
  • Resistance Fighters<
  • World War Two

Notorious as both Douglas Sirk’s American directorial debut, and perhaps the best film to come out of Poverty Row’s Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC), Hitler’s Madman has, unfortunately, not held up very well. Functioning largely as wartime propaganda, it does manage to effectively highlight the many atrocities carried out by Nazis in Czechoslovakia:

(particularly the brutal finale — an infamous crime against humanity):

… but it suffers from trite dialogue (“Hope — I’d forgotten there was such a word”), wooden acting (particularly by Alan Curtis in the lead):

… and an overall production air of “Hollywood Studio as Europe”. Evidence of Sirk’s visual genius emerges every now and then (particularly in the use of extreme angles), and John Carradine is well-cast as villainous Heydrich (Peary nominates his performance for an Alternate Oscar!), but the limited script and cast prevent this from being anything more than simply dated entertainment.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • John Carradine as Heydrich
  • Early evidence of Sirk’s talent with composition

Must See?
No. While it’s listed as a film with historical importance in the back of Peary’s book, I don’t think film fanatics need to see it.


One thought on “Hitler’s Madman (1943)

  1. A once-must – for its strengths rather than, obviously, its weaknesses.

    When it comes to this subject matter, I tend to be on the side of the film. (Basically, all I have to hear is ‘Heil, Hitler!’ and a chill always runs up my spine. That’s uttered quite a bit in this film.) ‘HM’ is flawed and a number of things brought out in the assessment are, to a degree, true. Some of the writing is a bit much (as is some of the musical score, esp. when it telegraphs what the audience should be feeling). With the exception of a few actors in certain scenes, though, I don’t find the acting to be all that wooden – and Carradine is particularly convincing, in what amounts to a rare ‘leading’ role.

    I find that the film gets off to a shaky start in particular, taking a few scenes to establish a working tone. But, once that’s accomplished, a good number of strong, satisfying scenes lie in wait – and it’s easy enough to get caught up in the horror of what goes on – and what grows to a genuinely horrifying conclusion.

    This is hardly “entertainment” – a point made quite clear in the final words of the script: the film is also a warning for the future.

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