by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Walter Pidgeon as CAPTAIN ALAN THORNDIKE
Joan Bennett as JERRY STOKES
George Sanders as QUIVE-SMITH
John Carradine as MR. JONES
Roddy McDowall as VANER
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Fritz Lang
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When Captain Alan Thorndike (Walter Pidgeon) is caught outside a Nazi stronghold with a rifle pointed at Adolf Hitler, the German government takes him prisoner. Major Quive-Smith (George Sanders) offers to let Thorndike go in exchange for him signing a paper confessing to be a British assassin. Thorndike maintains that this was a “sporting stalk,” and he never intended on killing Hitler.
When he escapes and returns to England, Thorndike finds himself a wanted man, hunted by the Nazis. The British government can’t come to his aid because they don’t want to upset the politics of the situation. Quive-Smith continues to pursue Thorndike for months, seeking his confession and stopping at nothing to get it.
WHAT I LIKED
To some, “Man Hunt” is a forgotten classic, but it still offers some exciting moments. The most intriguing aspect to this film is its timeline. The film takes place in 1939, before England entered World War II. It was produced and released in 1941, before America entered the war. However, both England and America were not fond of Hitler, and it shows with the Nazis as the villains.
The film is directed by Fritz Lang who, depending on which rumor you believe, narrowly escaped working for Adolf Hitler himself. And considering Lang’s wife he abandoned was a Nazi herself, this gives the man a unique perspective. The Nazis had not yet become the cartoon villains that they would become later in the 40s. Rather, Hitler takes a back seat in this movie, and Major Quive-Smith is presented as a keen and civilized opponent. This brings a humanity and grim reality to the film’s story.
Even the character of Jerry (Joan Bennett), which first appears as a throw-away role, plays a significant role in the emotional core of the film.
Because “Man Hunt” was released before the attack on Pearl Harbor, it flirted with being a film of pure propaganda, which wasn’t permitted. However, there is a courage in the movie’s historic stance. Even the ending of the film, which gives a definite opinion about Hitler’s regime, is dealt with softly but still with conviction.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Even though it’s a classic, there are elements to “Man Hunt” that drag the film down as a product of its era. The unrequited love story between Thorndike and Jerry comes off as schmaltzy in the beginning. Things tighten up as the film moves along, but part-way through the movie, it seems to lose sight of the daring adventure aspect and swerves into a fluffy romance.
Also, with more than 60 years of Nazi films under our collective belt, the treatment of the Germans in this movie is relatively soft. Sure, it adds a level of humanity to characters like Major Quive-Smith, but the atrocities that pollute the Nazi way of thinking is too neatly skirted around in this film.
This DVD comes with a commentary track by author Patrick McGilligan, along with the original theatrical trailer and advertising, artwork and still galleries.
The featurette “Rogue Male: The Making of Man Hunt” examines the film in the historical perspective, noting Lang’s history and the odd release of the film during the war that America had not yet joined.
There is an additional spotlight on the restoration of the film, providing side-by-side comparisons of scenes that had been cleaned up to remove blemishes, gate weave and camera distortion.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
World War II movie buffs and fans of the cinema of the 40s.