Wednesday, 21 October 2015

No.253 : Waterfront

Waterfront at the IMDb

Here’s a bit of an oddity - a 1944 American film that barely scrapes past an hour and is essentially a propaganda film. Still, we’re a broad church at the ‘W’ Movie Blog so let’s have a look.

The film opens as a man is being wrestled down at the docks after dark. No, not like that. Some passing drunks alert the cops but the man denies he’s been molested despite the drunks’ protestations. It turns out he’s the local optician and after getting in a predictable ‘they should get their eyes tested’ line he’s sent on his way.

It quickly transpires however that he was indeed robbed and the reason he couldn’t tell the policeman is that he’s a Nazi spy and all that was taken was his code book. Soon he’s joined by Marlow (John Carradine) who is also a Nazi agent keen to get his orders deciphered - a task rendered impossible by the loss of the code book. The two plan to shake down some local suspects but not before Carradine has scored himself some lodgings a guest house, having threatened the landlady’s family with a concentration camp back in the homeland.

The landlady’s daughter is stepping out with a young insurance agent who is near a life changing deal and he works for a German American who runs the insurance company - keeping up? Carradine doesn’t believe that the code book theft was a random robbery and he’s proven correct when the thief makes contact seeking $5000 for its return. The remainder of the film is taken up with cross and double cross as the code book remains elusive. Will it be recovered and will the nest of spies be rounded up?

As an oddity this film was OK but it lacked any credibility or tension. There was never any doubt that the spies were going to get caught and the method to make it so was somewhat drawn out and convoluted. There was plenty to aid the war effort not least the German American writing a confession to the FBI so that others wouldn’t make the same mistakes he did.

Carradine was always watchable but as a spy he was rubbish - no one notice the foreign chap with the large floppy hat down the docks then? Did his excessive tips not draw attention or his subtle plan of buying editions of every newspaper before throwing them away in frustration in front of the news vendor seem unusual?

He was quite brutal with three enemies dispatched in the same way - his Mauser raised (note : don’t use a German gun for your murders!) and fired while the victim died off camera - ‘Reservoir Dogs’ this was not.

Despite being just over an hour the film managed to tack on an unnecessary romantic subplot which added nothing apart from some wholesome values for the folks back home.

I wouldn’t go and seek this one out but if it shows up on TCM or somewhere, it will pass an hour without too many demands being made of you.

Best Bit : Why are you hanging about the docks?
‘W’ Rating 12/23

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