Appellate Judge James A. Stewart reports the skies are calm.
"Court? Trial? My dear man, this is Germany."
When you think of patriotic movies made as the Americans entered World War II, Berlin Correspondent doesn't come to mind as quickly as Casablanca. There are reasons for that, and they go far beyond the absence of Humphrey Bogart.
Dana Andrews (The Best Years of Our Lives) doesn't do a bad job as Bill Roberts, the American "newspaper guy" who gives radio reports (?) from 1941 Berlin. As he reports on the calm in the skies over the city, Allied bombs begin dropping. Immediately, the gentlemen on either side of him reveal themselves as Nazi censors, blocking his microphone so he can't react…at least not on the air.
It turns out Roberts is also sending coded messages home. The Nazis suspect, pouring over every word, but can't figure out how he's getting the information or what the code words are. The Gestapo sends in a lady (Virginia Gilmore, The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe), who appeals to Roberts' chivalrousness; he covers her lunch when she forgets her ration card.
Everything here is as expected: A barking Gestapo boss berates his incompetent underlings; Roberts cheerfully greets the agents who follow him everywhere; the lady Gestapo agent falls for Roberts over a spaghetti dinner; and the horrors of Nazi Germany hit close to home for her, leading to her decision to help. There's even a love triangle—inside Gestapo headquarters, strangely—to complete the melodramatic whole.
Virginia Gilmore's performance as Karen, the junior Nazi, is not up to par, even given the cheap, quick nature of Berlin Correspondent. Her terrible German accent seems to pop up a couple of times but is mostly nonexistent. Her reactions—romantic, angry, or sad—are obviously B-movie acting. As Roberts, Andrews is defiant and cocky.
Of course, there's only one scene in the movie that is as effectively horrific as director Eugene Forde (Charlie Chan in London) intended—a trip to an asylum where people the Nazis don't like are disposed of as mentally ill. It's even more impactful today, as we notice foreshadowing of the Holocaust.
Although Berlin Correspondent isn't great, Forde's work looks good. Presented in standard def 1.33:1 full frame, Fox's black-and-white transfer is gray and gloomy, but that's by design, making for some good noir. Unfortunately, it hasn't held up well, as there is dirt and damage. The audio is single channel Mono and it does what it needs to get the point across. As expected, there are no bonus features.
There's nothing must-see about the Forde's flawed Berlin Correspondent, but it is an entertaining war movie. The is a Made-on-Demand release (not accessible to all players) which means it's a little pricier, so you'll have to consider how badly you want to see it. Better to wait and see if it shows up on cable.
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