LES MAUDITS (THE DAMNED) (director/writer: Rene Clement; screenwriters: story by Victor Alexandrov & Jacques Companéez/Jacques Rémy; cinematographer: Henri Alekan; editor:  Roger Dwyre; music:  Yves Baudrier; cast: Kurt Kronefeld (General Von Hauser), Fosco Giachetti (Garosi), Henri Vidal (Dr. Guilbert), Jodest (Forster), Michel Auclair (Willy Morus), Florence Marly (Hilda Garosi), Marcel Dalio (Larga), Jean Didier (The Captain), Paul Bernard (Couturier), Anne Campion (Ingrid Ericksen), Lucien Hector (Ericksen); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Paul Wagner/André Paulvé/Michel Safra; Warner Home Video; 1947)

"Exciting WW II thriller."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Rene Clement ("Forbidden Games"/"Is Paris Burning?"/"Purple Noon") directs with great skill this exciting WW II thriller. The claustrophobic film is set almost entirely on a captured German U-boat, with an engine room designed by the studio. It's a bold example of a realistic documentary-styled film that is both a great technical achievement and an example of good story-telling. It depicts the Nazi madness, and covers the post-war Nazi exodus to South America that few films even try. Writers Clement and Jacques Rémy base it on the story by Victor Alexandrov & Jacques Companéez.

Set during the waning days of the war in April of 1945, with Hitler declared dead and an assorted group of unpleasant Nazi officials, sympathizers and collaborators taking a U-boat on an unauthorized trip from an Oslo sub station to South America, trying to get through an allied blockade and escape their personal doom if they remained in Europe. The Nazi Swiss-born militant Hilda Garosi (Florence Marly), the ice-queen wife of a pathetic Italian Fascist industrialist (Fosco Giachetti), is the mistress of the self-absorbed, uptight, close-mouthed, elderly Nazi General Von Hauser (Kurt Kronefeld). He's also aboard the U-boat with his aide. When Hilda conks her head against the ship railing while the boat runs from a destroyer and is knocked unconscious, the Germans cry out for a doctor. The ship, under orders from madman fanatic Nazi political big-shot, Forster (Jodest), the fiery self-appointed leader, has the U-boat stop off the French seacoast and a few of his operatives kidnap Dr. Guilbert (Henri Vidal), from Royan, and force him to go along with them to South America.

The other uglies aboard include the despicable ship captain (Jean Didier); the fawning French Nazi propaganda newspaperman (Paul Bernard); the punky young knife-wielding thug, who is Forster's designated assassin, Willy Morus (Michel Auclair); the slimy Scandinavian scientist scholar Ericksen (Lucien Hector) and his almost but not quite human 17-year-old daughter Ingrid (Anne Campion).

The French doctor realizes his life is in danger and he's warned by Ingrid to be aware of Forster, who wants no witnesses to squeal about his escape and will kill the doc when he's no longer needed. A friendly German radio operator warns doc to escape while he can when the U-boat fuels up from a German cargo boat.

The atmospheric film works in parts in a masterful way, as it depicts the real world and its misfortunes. It's filled with justifiable anti-Nazi propaganda, a talented cast playing to the hilt a bunch of unctuous nasties and a tense story about being stuck in close-quarters with shipmates who might look human but can suddenly turn into monsters.

In 1947, it won for best picture in Cannes.

REVIEWED ON 10/14/2013       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"