I am VERY happy to post this review from guest blogger Emm. She's on a hiatus from blogging, but has promised to give me a guest post now and then! And we, the editors here at ClassicForever, are quite pleased. ;-D
There were two ideas that came into my head after reading this review: One, I REALLY need to see this movie. And two, I REALLY need to go eat a nice dish of Ivar's fish and chips-- probably with a bowl of clam chowder. Seriously. I need to RIGHT NOW.
Initially, I believed that Man Hunt was my first Fritz Lang film. I felt rather proud of this somehow, because everyone raves about his work, and usually his movies sound like films I'd be too chicken to watch. But a little investigation revealed that I'd previously seen The Return of Frank James. So, let's just say Man Hunt was my first CONSCIOUS Fritz Lang picture. Because, you know, I watch a lot of movies UN-consciously. ;D
The film begins with Alan Thorndike (Walter Pidgeon) silently slipping through the woods near Berchtesgaden – holding a rifle. On the edge of a small cliff, he proceeds to set his gun sight on none other than Hitler himself. Our hero pulls the trigger slowly and deliberately...
...and the gun clicks. Satisfied, he begins to creep away. But then Capt. Thorndike hesitates and places a single cartridge in the chamber, once again aiming directly at the Fuhrer. However, just before he would be able to fire, a German soldier overpowers him.
Thorndike is brought before Major Quive-Smith (George Sanders) soon after his capture. Sanders is his typically charming and urbane self as the fiendish, monocle-wearing German officer. He has plenty of diabolical schemes up his sleeve, but the main one involves trying to force Thorndike into signing a confession that states he attempted to assassinate Hitler with the knowledge and consent of the British government. Cue the psychological warfare.
Naturally, Thorndike refuses to comply, as it would badly discredit his country, in addition to being completely against his own personal principles. And just as naturally, that simply won't do for the Major, so he has our poor hunter/adventurer hero tortured within an inch of his life, and then thrown off a cliff – but not before a bit of breathtaking camera work involving some crazy amazing shadows. In one of these scenes, the audience never sees Walter Pidgeon directly, but only hears his voice and sees his shadow – and the face of his deliciously evil enemy. Trust me, 'tis brilliant.
Believing Thorndike dead, the suave villain decides to wait until morning to officially “discover” the body. BUT, Captain Thorndike did NOT die, and an exciting chase through the forest commences. (To be perfectly honest though, everything in this film is tense and heart-stopping.) Thorndike eventually makes his way to the coast and stows away on a Danish boat bound for Britain with the help of little Roddy McDowall.
Also aboard the ship is a loathsome spy of Major Quive-Smith, played by John Carradine, AKA Bob Ford, murderer of Tyrone Power's Jesse James. (Actually that only happened in an alternate universe – undoubtedly created somehow by Kate for the sole purpose of killing off Ty. ;D) ANYWAY, he's utterly and completely horrible again – but is in one of the very finest shots of the entire film, after which he is fittingly killed by Walter Pidgeon in the London Underground. YAY!!
But that joyous occasion actually takes place MUCH later in the film. Walter Pidgeon/Thorndike has to meet streetwalker Joan Bennett and her bad cockney accent, eat fish & chips for the first time in his life, purchase an ambiguous little arrow hatpin for the lady, and hide as best he can from murderous agents in London. Then he gets to kill Mr. Jones/Bob Ford/John Carradine!
I won't spoil it, but I will say I found the ending a trifle bizarre and I literally laughed aloud. It wasn't truly BAD, but I was genuinely surprised, and not in a THIS IS THE MOST BRILLIANT AND FANTASTIC TWIST kind of way. That being said, Man Hunt is a beautifully shot, well acted, and extremely thrilling...thriller.
Thanks for the lovely post, Emm! :-D