(director: Alfred Werker; screenwriters: based on the novel “The Gaunt Woman” by Edmund Gilligan/Dale Van Every/Oliver H.P. Garrett, Roy Huggins; cinematographer: George E. Diskant; editor: Ralph Dawson; music: Roy Webb; cast: Dana Andrews (Pat Banyon), Carla Balenda (Margaret McLean), Claude Rains (Capt. Skalder), Skip Homeier (Steve), Philip Dorn (Konrad), Onslow Stevens (Cmdr. James McLean), Eric Feldary (Holger), J. M. Kerrigan (Skipper Ben), Morgan Farley (Caleb), Arthur Shields (Dolan); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Warren Duff; RKO; 1951-USA-in English, Danish, German-B/W)
“A top-notch atmospheric wartime thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A top-notch atmospheric wartime thriller directed with great skill by Alfred Werker (“The Last Posse “/”Shock”). It’s written as a wartime noir film by Dale Van Every, Oliver H.P. Garrett and Roy Huggins. The B/W film is based on the novel “The Gaunt Woman” by Edmund Gilligan. The film was made six years after World War II ended.
In Gloucester, MA., the hard-working skipper of the Daniel Webster fishing trawler, Pat Banyon (Dana Andrews), regularly goes after halibut in the small town of Trebo, Newfoundland. Because of the war, it’s hard to get a crew. But on his return to Gloucester after a successful fishing trip, he manages to get on board his trawler a Danish seaman named Konrad (Philip Dorn) and a desperate nurse Margaret McLean (Carla Balenda) needing transportation to return to her birthplace of Trebo after a fifteen year absence. She wants to visit her career Navy man father Cmdr. James McLean (Onslow Stevens), who is home on leave.
Out on the Grand Banks, the crew hear machine gun fire and soon locate a shipwrecked Danish schooner called The Gaunt Woman. The ghost ship is identified by Konrad and the other Danish seaman on board, Holger (Eric Feldary), who signed on last year. The ship has on board barrels of Jamaican rum and one survivor, the Captain Henrik Skalder (Claude Rains), who says the crew fled when a storm damaged it. The damaged ship is still able to function, as Banyon tows her to Trebo for repairs. He will soon learn Skalder is a Nazi captain and the village of Trebo is in big trouble from a German U-boat working nearby with the mysterious captain.
Banyon, for his good deed of rescuing the ship, gets trapped in a Nazi plot and the fishermen end up fighting a German U-boat crew to survive being blown up by the sealed cargo (dynamite) in the Danish ship which turns out to be a Nazi ship getting over as a Danish ship. Banyon also must sniff out the German spy in his crew and sink the boat with the sealed cargo before the entire peaceful fishing village is blown to bits
Andrews is a terrific hero, Rains is perfect as an evil Nazi and Balenda makes for a caring nurse you would want at your bedside if ailing and a fine love interest for Andrews if the busy film would only give them some more time together.
This is a minor but well-crafted and acted film that shows the courage of the ordinary folks to snatch a little victory in the big war.
REVIEWED ON 12/6/2020 GRADE: B+