(director: Peter Godfrey; screenwriters: novel by Vicki Baum/Alvah Bessie/Jo Pagano; cinematographer: Carl Guthrie; editor: Frederick Richards; music: Franz Waxman ; cast: Helmut Dantine (Dr. Martin Richter), Faye Emerson (Tilli Weiler), Andrea King (Lisa Dorn.), Peter Lorre (Johannes Koenig), Raymond Massey (Armin Van Dahnwitz), George Coulouris (Joachim Helm), Alan Hale (Hermann Plotke), Henry Daniell (Baron Von Stetten), Kurt Kreuger (Major Otto Kauders), Frank Reicher (Fritz), Helene Thimig (Mrs. Bauer, German Jew not in a concentration camp), Peter Whitney (Heinriche), Steven Geray (Kliebert ), Paul Ander (Walter); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Louis F. Edelman; Warner Bros.; 1945-B/W)
“The neglected film has a great cast to keep it a decent film despite its bad guys being more colorful than the good guys.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Based on the 1943 book by Austrian writer Vicki Baum. She wrote the Grand Hotel , which was made into a 1932 film. The same formula used there is used again here The little regarded director Peter Godfrey (“The Great Jewel Robber”/”Christmas in Connecticut”) helms it with efficiency, while writers Alvah Bessie & Jo Pagano keep the war drama busy with non-stop melodrama and intrigue.
It’s set in 1945, at the ritzy Hotel Berlin, during the last days of the Third Reich. The lives of those at the hotel intermingle. The Gestapo believe an underground leader and recent escapee from Dachau, Martin Richter (Helmut Dantine), is hiding in the hotel and conduct a search of all the rooms. A waiter (Frank Reicher) from the underground disguises the hunted escapee as a waiter, and he serves a meal in the luxury suite of the famed theater actress Lisa Dorn (Andrea King), an opportunistic Nazi. She’s romantically linked with the snobbish, arrogant, old-line staff General Van Dahnwitz (Raymond Massey), who was part of a conspiracy to kill Hitler and is now blacklisted. The others who took part in the failed attempt have already been executed. The general’s friend, the oily survivalist diplomat, Baron Von Stetten (Henry Daniell), warns the general his time is up and he must kill himself. With that he looks for other ways to escape his fate, but he’s turned down by Lisa when he proposes marriage and his plan to fly to Sweden to flee the country is dashed when the Baron tells him the Gestapo know of his plans.
When the waiter who aided Richter is arrested, Richter wants to get out of the well-guarded hotel. He bargains with Lisa, who learns his true identity, that if she helps him he will see to it that the underground helps her flee Germany. She keeps her end of the bargain and he’s about to keep his, when the underground waiters overhear her lounge conversation with the Baron. He wants Lisa to flee the country with his friends to South America in a submarine and rebuild the Nazi party there, and for her to get back in the good graces with the Nazis she agrees to rat out where the underground hideout is.
The hotel hostess Tilli (Faye Emerson), yearning for a new pair of shoes, and hoping to get the big reward placed on Richter’s head, informs the Gestapo Commissioner Helm (George Coulouris) of a waiter’s jacket she found in Miss Dorn’s room when a maid let her look around. Lisa is then suspected by the Gestapo of helping Richter, and is in great danger. When Helm goes to her room to investigate, he encounters Richter there and is killed by him as they struggle.
At the underground hideaway for the Resistance fighters, the sickly genius scientist (Peter Lorre) has been released from Dachau after agreeing to help the Nazis but has changed his mind and shelters down with the underground. When it’s discovered that Lisa was to betray the location of the underground hideout, the disappointed Richter executes her. The film closes with American bomber planes flying over Berlin.
The film is no Casablanca, something Warner Bros. dearly wanted, but the neglected film has a great cast to keep it a decent film despite its bad guys being more colorful than the good guys.
REVIEWED ON 7/15/2020 GRADE: B