Edge of Darkness (1943)

Edge of Darkness (1943), directed by Lewis Milestone.

German relief forces arrive at a Norwegian fishing village to find a deserted town and bodies everywhere. The garrison has been wiped out and many civilians are also dead; obviously there has been a violent insurrection by the locals. Most of the film is a flashback to see how it came about.

The British are supplying arms to towns on the coast, telling everyone to wait for the right time. It is Our Town goes to war as the villagers discuss whether to be involved, how to do it, who can be trusted? In the end they hash it all out in a quiet church meeting.

Errol Flynn says "We must be like steel" to make this work, but Ann Sheridan is the really tough one. She denounces her own brother as a quisling and even after being raped (in the church!) she advises restraint until the whole coast is ready.

The climactic battle is very exciting but with terrible losses on both sides. The townspeople charge heavy machine guns with horse-drawn wagons and grenades. Most of the Germans are deep baddies, although one who is sweet on Judith Anderson is trying to be nice. No mercy for him, though. Die, Germans, die!

Also with Walter Houston and Ruth Gordon. Nancy Coleman is affecting as a Polish girl in a jam: she was brought to Norway as a "comfort woman" for the officers and now can't get away.

The film is dialogue heavy and a bit long at nearly two hours. As was the fashion at the time, people who are supposed to be speaking foreign languages use stilted formal English instead. It's meant to be a realistic war drama by the standards of the time, but there is a lot of speechifying.

Franz Waxman score. I heard bits from Siegfried's funeral march when the commandant shot himself: a wry statement on Wagner, Aryan supermen, that stuff. Helmut Dantine is a great villain; in life he was an active anti-Nazi and spent months in a concentration camp.

That final pane below is after the big battle. Ann Sheridan is welcoming the enemy relief force.