|ESCAPE (director: Mervyn Leroy; screenwriters: Arch Oboler/Marguerite Roberts/from the novel by Ethel Vance; cinematographer: Robert Planck; editor: George Boemler; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Norma Shearer (Countess von Treck), Robert Taylor (Mark Preysing), Conrad Veidt (Gen. Kurt von Kolb), Alla Nazimova (Emmy Ritter), Felix Bressart (Fritz Keller), Albert Bassermann (Dr. Arthur Henning), Philip Dorn (Dr. Ditten, camp doctor); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lawrence Weingarten; MGM; 1940)|
sentimental Holocaust story."
by Dennis Schwartz
Mervyn Leroy ("Waterloo Bridge"/"Tugboat
Annie"/"I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang") bases the
slow-moving glossy and sentimental Holocaust story on
the 1939 best seller by Ethel Vance. The
well-crafted but unaffecting weepie was written by Arch
Oboler and Marguerite Roberts, and is rescued from a
slow death due to tedium by an exciting Hollywood
painter Mark Preysing (Robert Taylor) comes to pre-war
Nazi Germany to rescue his famous German stage actress
mom, Emmy Ritter (Alla Nazimova, silent
screen star's first role in fifteen years),
living for years in America, who returns to her native
country to dispose of her late husband's estate and is
arrested for treason for trying to take
money out of the country. Mark does not know
what happened to mom and is given the cold shoulder by
even former friends, until he meets fellow American,
the Countess von Treck (Norma Shearer), and
gets the reluctant Countess to change her tune and
inform him that his mother is in a concentration camp
scheduled for the gas chamber.
Countess is the mistress of the evil General von Kolb
(Conrad Veidt, his American film debut).
The Countess and Mark team-up to arrange for a daring escape, as they place mom in a coffin and hide her in the countess's home until they eventually take her across the border to safety.
The importance of the film, torn from the headlines of that period, is that it was one of the early Hollywood films to tell about the death camps. Hitler banned Escape in Germany for its anti-Nazi stance.
REVIEWED ON 1/16/2014 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ