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TONIGHT WE RAID CALAIS (director: John Brahm; screenwriters: Waldo Salt/story by L. Willinger & Rohama Lee; cinematographer: Lucien Ballard; editor: Allen McNeil; music: Emil Newman/Cyril J. Mockridge; cast: John Sutton(Geoffrey Carter), Lee J. Cobb (Bonnard), Annabella (Odette Bonnard), Blanche Yurks (Widow Grelieu), Beulah Bondi (Mme. Bonnard), Howard Da Silva (Sgt. Block), Marcal Dalio (Jacques Grandet), Ann Codee (Mme. Grandet), Nigel de Brulier (Danton), Robert Lewis (Maurice Bonnard, the brother), Reginald Sheffield (Commandant Hauptmann); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Andre Daven; Twentieth Century Fox; 1943)
Brahm keeps it fast paced, but can’t make it more than a wartime morale booster.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A topical low-budget propaganda war drama about occupied France. It’s directed by John Brahm (“The Lodger”/”The Mad Magician”/”The Brasher Doubloon“). Brahmkeeps it fast paced, but can’t make it more than a wartime morale booster. Writer Waldo Salt, a future blacklisted screenwriter, bases it on the story by L. Willinger & Rohama Lee.

The Germans have a munitions factory in Calais, France, that the Brits want destroyed. They choose commando Geoffrey Carter (John Sutton) to carry out this dangerous but vital one-man raid. He paves the way on the ground before their bombing raid. After slaying two German sentries, Carter hides at the farm of Monsieur and Madame Bonnard (Lee J. Cobb & Beulah Bondi). Carter overhears the German Sgt. Block (Howard Da Silva) pestering with sexual advances Bonnard’s pretty daughter Odette (Annabella), who rebuffs him. But she must be careful to not turn him completely off, because he could make trouble.

Odette, who hates the British and the Germans with the same passion, makes contact with Carter, as she wrestles with her conscience to decide which side to help. Because of her dad choosing to aid Carter, she decides to go along. Carter thereby disguises himself as her dead brother Pierre, whom the Germans are unaware died in a recent raid. Pierre’s best friend, Jacques Grandet (Marcal Dalio), works in the munitions factory and tells Carter some secrets used to disguise it from the surrounding buildings. Carter huddles with the nearby property owners and plans to create a ring of fire around the factory so the RAF bomber pilots will have a clear target.

Things get hectic when Block uncovers that Pierre is a Brit commando and goes to his commander (Reginald Sheffield). It results in the arrest of the Bonnards, Carter going into hiding and the guilt-ridden Odette, the only Bonnard free, carrying out Carter’s plane after he’s held by the Nazis.

The schematic drama seems too artificial and contrived when viewed at this late date, but it’s still enjoyable.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”