HITLER’S CHILDREN (director: Edward Dmytryk; screenwriters: from the novel Education for Death by Gregor Ziemer/Emmet Lavery; cinematographer: Russell Metty; editor: Joseph Noriega; music: Roy Webb; cast: Tim Holt (Lieutenant Karl Bruner), Bonita Granville (Anna Muller), Kent Smith (Professor ‘Nicky’ Nichols/Narrator), Otto Kruger (Colonel Henkel), H.B. Warner (The Bishop), Lloyd Corrigan (Franz Erhart), Erford Gage (Dr. Schmidt), Hans Conried (Dr. Graf); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edward A. Golden; RKO; 1943)
“The melodramatics seemed artificial.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director Edward Dmytryk (“Cornered”/”Confessions of Boston Blackie”) was paid $500 a week to make this exploitation propaganda B film, which RKO made on the cheap for $100,000. Dmytryk took over the director’s chair from his friend Irving Riis, who when shooting started got into a spat with the producer Doc Golden and quit. The studio ran a massive radio ad campaign and released it nationally to a wide audience as an eye-opening anti-Nazi film, and to its great surprise it grossed seven and a half million dollars. The screenplay by Emmet Lavery was based on the book “Education for Death” by Gregor Ziemer. With the box office success, both Lavery and Dmytryk received substantial cash bonuses.
The film is narrated by Professor Nichols (Kent Smith), head of the American Colony School in Germany. He recalls the ‘good old days’ in 1933 before the war. The Professor tells of the daily street fights between the students in his school and the thuggish students at the neighboring German school run by the Nazi fanatic Dr. Schmidt (Erford Gage), who encourages his students to dedicate their lives to Adolph Hitler and brawl with the Americans. The German-American student Anna Muller (Bonita Granville) and the Nazi spouting student from the German school Karl Bruner (Tim Holt) have a love-hate relationship, with him getting carried away with her piano playing and falling for her despite their ideological differences. The Professor encourages the romance by inviting Karl to attend their school picnics.
Anna is now, in May of 1939, a teacher at the American school. At a Memorial Day celebration the Gestapo arrives and demands custody of all Germans, Lithuanians, Poles and Jews at the school. In addition they take away Anna, and when the Professor lodges a complaint to the Gestapo officer in charge, Lt. Karl Bruner, he’s told that as a German citizen Anna is subject to German law. Further complaints to the American Embassy prove useless. The Professor then turns to his German journalist friend Franz Erhardt (Lloyd Corrigan) for help, but he’s too cowardly and only tells that Anna’s in a labor camp. When Anna refuses to join an escape plan hatched by their Professor (afraid it’s too risky for the teach) and fails to go along with the New Order, Karl’s boss Colonel Henkel (Otto Kruger) sentences her to hard labor at the camp and whippings.
The Nazis are shown to be monsters whose youth is molded to militaristic duty and educated in hatred, and it shows their warped policies in programs such as forced sterilization and for allowing young girls to willingly submit to being impregnated by Aryan men (with or without a marriage certificate) in order to sustain the “Master Race.” By the end Karl and Anna have fallen in love, as he renounces his Nazi beliefs. But their relationship proves to be a doomed one, as both are executed. The melodramatics seemed artificial, as the film ends with a Goethe poem about freedom being read aloud over the radio by Karl and the fleeing Professor rhetorically asking “Can we stop Hitler’s children before it is too late?”
REVIEWED ON 8/24/2006 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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