Thursday, January 17, 2008

MAN HUNT (1941)

MAN HUNT is a movie I hadn’t seen until recently. I thought I had seen most of the popular pre-war and WWII propaganda films, but somehow I had missed this one; surprisingly, since it has a good cast of Walter Pidgeon, Joan Bennett and George Sanders, with supporting cast of John Carradine and Roddy McDowell, and directed by Fritz Lang to boot.

The story is about a British big game hunter, Captain Alan Thorndike, played by Walter Pidgeon, for who regular hunting is no longer a challenge, so he challenges himself to a "sporting stalk" of Adolf Hitler during the summer of 1939. Sneaking into Bertesgarten, Hitler’s retreat, Thorndike manages to get Hitler in his rifle sites. He pulls the trigger and click; nothing happens. The "sport" was merely in seeing if he could do it. But, as Thorndike starts to crawl away, he pauses and thinks for a few moments, and then crawls back to where he first took the “shot”. He now puts a bullet in the chamber. Is he really going to shoot, or is this just another ego trip for him? As he takes aim, a sentry jumps him, the gun goes off and he is captured.

Thorndike is brought before the Gestapo, I assume, commander, effectively played by George Sanders, where he is beaten as they try to extract a confession and then try to get him to sign a paper stating the he was working for the British Government. When he refuses to sign, on moral grounds yet, they try to kill him by making his death look like an accident and then they can blame the British anyway. But, our hero escapes and manages to get back to England where he is pursued by Sanders and other German spies which he tries to elude with the help of a “lady of the evening”, Joan Bennett, who just happens to get involved.

The plot is very good and very believable with not even the smallest details overlooked and has a lot of suspense with twists and turns. You never know who is a German agent in England in 1939! The actors play their parts well and the direction is what you would expect from the caliber of Fritz Lang. There is a little bit of “My Fair Lady” in the story line in the scenes with lower class Bennett and upper class Pidgeon showing the extremes of the social chain in England. These scenes are a sidelight to the main plot, but are wonderfully shot and directed. And Pidgeon is just so naive ... is that a statement on the snobbery of the upper class or something else?

I will say, however, I was VERY disappointed in the ending, finale, conclusion or whatever you want to call the part of the film that is after the plot is concluded; the last 5 minutes. It seemed like an after thought, like it was just thrown in or the original was removed and replaced with this. You’ll know what I mean when you see the film.

I would have given this an 8 out of 10 except for the ending which forces me to give it only 7 out of 10. But, over-all, this is a very good film taking in consideration it was filmed in 1940 and release in 1941. By the way, the film is in black and white even though some of these attachments are color.


LBGIGI said...

I just saw this movie and agree with you about the ending . I am trying to find out what song is playing in the background in London - do you know ?

Wes Miller said...

Give me a clue here as to what scene the music you are talking about comes from. Most of the film takes place in London!