Sep 7, 2007
49th Parallel (1941)
With Leslie Howard, Raymond Massey and Laurence Olvier all taking huge pay cuts to make this film “for the war effort” and Anton Walbrook donating half his salary to the International Red Cross, there’s no doubt that this World War II era film is propaganda. It is also great entertainment. A U-boat full of Nazis lands off the coast of Northern Canada and sends a small group of men out for provisions—with orders to destroy anyone who stands in their way. They take over an isolated outpost surrounded by Eskimos and soon learn by radio that their comrades have all been lost. As their numbers dwindle, they try to escape across the border to the still-neutral US, while blindly promoting their fuehrer and trampling the friendly strangers who try to help them along the way. The unusual focus on the antagonist’s story can bring up flashes of pity for these essentially brainwashed men, but their crimes are too severe to be entirely forgotten.