Douglas Sirk’s first American film (1943) is more significant historically than artistically, even though some of the director’s distinctive visual style, which will reach fruition in the 1950s melodrama, is already evident.
Thematically, the film bears resemblance to Fritz Lang’s “Hangmen Also Die,“ a better treatment of the same subject.
The narrative, inspired by true events, centers on the determined resistance of the Czechs to the barbarities of the infamous Colonel Heydrich, superbly played by John Carradine. The assassination of the sadistic Nazi commander Heydrich by the Czechs brought about horrendous reprisals by the German forces.
“Hitler’s Masman” is less a noir-thriller than a committed tribute to the spirit of resistance among the occupied Czech people. The film is powerful, from the opening shots of a statue of St Sebastian pinned with arrows to the end, with its emphasis on physical suffering and martyrdom.
The back-lot sets and the second-tier cast (Patricia Morison, Alan Curtis) relegate the film into a lower status among WWII films.
Ava Gardner has a brief cameo as a peasant girl tormented by the brutal Nazis.
Victor Kilian Johanna Hofer
Produced by Seymour Nebenzal.
Directed by Douglas Sirk.
Screenplay by Peretz Hirshbein, Melvin Levy and Doris Malloy, based on an original story by Emil Ludwig and Albrecht Joseph.
Release date: August 27, 1943