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DESPERATE JOURNEY (director: Raoul Walsh; screenwriter: Arthur T. Horman; cinematographer: Bert Glennon; editor: Rudi Fehr; music: Max Steiner/Hugo W. Friedhofer; cast: Errol Flynn (Flight Lt. Terrence Forbes), Ronald Reagan (Flying Officer Johnny Hammond), Raymond Massey (Maj. Otto Baumeister), Arthur Kennedy (Flying Officer Jed Forrest), Sig Ruman (Preuss), Patrick O’Moore (Squadron Leader Lane Ferris), Alan Hale (Flight Sergeant Kirk Edwards), Ronald Sinclair (Flight Sergeant Lloyd Hollis), Kaethe Brahms (Nancy Coleman); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Hal B. Wallis/Jack Saper; Warner Bros. Pictures; 1942)
A rousing Hollywood propaganda World War II adventure film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A rousing Hollywood propaganda World War II adventure film, shot in black and white, during the early days of the war. It tells about the heroics of the RAF. Raoul Walsh(“Gentleman Jim”/”White Heat”/”The Roaring Twenties”) directs as if a ‘boys’ adventure film. The screenplay is written by Arthur T. Horman, as if a text-book example of how to make an appealing patriotic war film.

An RAF bomber crew assigned to bomb a German railway is shot down over German-occupied Poland; eight men are in the plane, but onlyfive survive the crash and are taken as POWs. The camp commander is the no-nonsense Major Otto Baumeister. The survivors are: the headstrong Aussie Flight Lt. Terrence Forbes (Errol Flynn); the affable flying Officer Johnny Hammond (Ronald Reagan), an American; the blustering middle-aged Flight Sergeant Kirk Edwards (Alan Hale ), a Scot; the practical Flying Officer Jed Forrest (Arthur Kennedy), a Canadian; and the wide-eyed Flight Sergeant Lloyd Hollis (Ronald Sinclair), the wounded son of a famous World War I flyer. Since the squadron leader is killed, Forbes is now in charge.

The RAF prisoners, led by Hammond, overpower their captors and find papers about a hidden Messerschmidt factory. They then trek across enemy territory, trying to reach safety. They are helped by Kaethe Brahms (Nancy Coleman), a member of the underground. Meanwhile Baumeister is relentlessly in pursuit.

After a few troubling adventures and of destroying a German chemical factory, they steal Baumeister’s car and drive to the border. Kaethe then leaves the men to carry on in Germany. When the men cross the border, they run out of gas and follow a passing gasoline carrier. This leads them to a camouflaged captured English bomber. The two survivors, Terry and Johnny, then fly the plane to England.

Everything is too simplistic for the fast-paced comic-strip action melodrama to be anything but ludicrous. But it should appeal to those who like pics where the Nazis are shown as stupid and getting their asses kicked. Errol Flynn did the pic when the draft board rejected him for service because of being medically unfit (diagnosed with TB).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”