“It’s not the Canadian people we’re against; it’s your filthy government.”
When their U-Boat sinks in Northern Canada, a Nazi naval lieutenant (Eric Portman) and five of his men (including Raymond Lovell and Niall MacGinnis) attempt to make their way across the border to neutral America. During their undercover journey they meet a lusty French-Canadian trapper (Laurence Olivier), a peace-loving Hutterite leader (Anton Walbrook), an art-loving writer (Leslie Howard) living among Indians, and an AWOL Canadian soldier (Raymond Massey).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Anton Wolbrook Films
- Glynis Johns Films
- Laurence Olivier Films
- Leslie Howard Films
- Michael Powell Films
- Niall MacGinnis Films
- Raymond Massey Films
- World War II
Just prior to forming their production company The Archers, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger made this propaganda film specifically to persuade neutral United States to enter the war against Germany (though by the time it was released, they were already involved). Powell and Pressburger’s unique stance is one of making Nazi fugitives the protagonists, meaning we can’t help but somewhat relate to their plight while simultaneously detesting their beliefs and actions. A host of big-name actors lend their heft to snippets of the storyline, beginning with Laurence Olivier sporting a heavy French-Canadian accent as a trapper recently returned from his trade and shocked to find that Canada is at war, and ending with Massey in a heroic turn as an AWOL soldier who does the right thing for his country. Most affecting is the sequence taking place among Hutterites, where MacGinnis is reintroduced to his craft as a baker — and thus remembers what a “good life” really consists of — and Walbrook plays a calm and composed leader. While it’s not must-see viewing, this film remains worth viewing once for its historical interest.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Anton Walbrook as Peter
- Niall MacGinniss as Vogel
- Freddie Young’s cinematography
No, but it’s certainly worth a look. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.