DEMI-PARADISE, THE (aka: ADVENTURE FOR TWO)(director: Anthony Asquith; screenwriter: Anatole de Grunwald; cinematographer: Bernard Knowles; editor: Renee Woods; music: Nicholas Brodszky; cast: Laurence Olivier (Ivan Kouznetsoff), Penelope Dudley Ward (Ann Tisdall), Marjorie Fielding (Mrs. Tisdall), Margaret Rutherford (Rowena Ventnor), Felix Aylmer (Mr. Runalow), George Thorpe (Herbert Tisdall), Guy Middleton (Dick Christian), Jack Watling (Tom), Everley Gregg (Mrs. Flannel), Muriel Aked (Mrs. Tisdall-Stanton), Edie Martin (Miss Winifred Tisdall), Joyce Grenfell (Sybil Paulson), Leslie Henson (Himself), Michael Shepley (Mr. Walford); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Anatole De Grunwald; Universal Pictures; 1943-UK)
“An embarrassingly limp film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The British wartime propaganda film, put out by the British Ministry of Information, was released in the US as Adventure for Two. Its purpose was to promote friendship between England and its ally the Soviet Union. If such a homage film of Russia was made by Americans, the film crew would probably have been under scrutiny after the war by the commie witch-hunting HUAC. I found it trite, artificial, and heavy-handed, and that Anatole de Grunwald’s screenplay was too dull, predictable and simplistic to make for a good watch. Also, one would never know that Stalin was a monster approaching or possibly even approximating in atrocities the madman level of Hitler.
Director Anthony Asquith (“The Yellow Rolls-Royce”/”The V.I.P.s”/”The Browning Version”) gets in all the talking points of how the ‘English never know when they are beaten,’ that they have a good sense of humor and enjoy leading foreigners on to think they care only about money. Laurence Olivier stars and speaks with a thick Russian accent, as he represents the Stalin regime as the likable hard worker who respects democracy and freedom–someone England is proud to have as an ally.
Patriotic Russian engineer Ivan Kouznetsoff (Laurence Olivier) invents a special propeller for ice-breakers and in 1939 is sent by his government to England, just before the onset of the war, to supervise a private British shipping firm to build his revolutionary ice-breakers on ships they are sending to Russia. This way the Russian ships could pass the northern seas during winter.
While in London the humorless and smug Ivan feels uncomfortable with the British customs and thinks they are a cold and selfish people. But when he’s invited to stay in the shipbuilder Herbert Tisdall’s (George Thorpe) London home on the High Street, he slowly comes around to changing his mind as he courts the shipbuilder’s pretty and perky daughter Ann (Penelope Dudley Ward) and learns to respect her knowledgeable and cultivated grandfather, Mr. Runalow (Felix Aylmer), the owner of the shipping firm who guides him in his work and with life lessons. After returning to Russia without success, Ivan returns again in 1941 when war breaks out between England and Germany and this time the English greet him warmly and he soon gets the propeller design right. Ivan then returns to Russia with a deep respect for the English people, even saying he came there with misconceptions and prejudices and left discovering he met a grand people. He has also put his timid romance with Ann on hold until after the war.
A minor Olivier film. But if you’re ever curious to see him in a pro-Soviet propaganda piece, than this is the film that will do the trick if you don’t puke watching such an embarrassingly limp film.
REVIEWED ON 6/4/2009 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ