Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 1943. The Samuel Goldwyn Company. Screenplay by Lillian Hellman, additional dialogue in new edition by Burt Beck. Cinematography by James Wong Howe. Produced by Samuel Goldwyn. Music by Aaron Copland. Production Design by Perry Ferguson. Film Editing by Daniel Mandell. Academy Awards 1943.
Lillian Hellman pens a tribute to the spirit of Russia suffering under Nazi atrocities during World War II, the film released while the U.S. still considered the great red nation an ally. It’s painfully dated and corny now, a vision of village life that looks like an idyllic small American town but with the odd balalaika and floral-printed skirt. Farley Granger and Anne Baxter are the optimistic young lovers who go on a walking tour with friends that is interrupted by planes bombing the land and, before long, turns them into fighters with rifles in their hands. There are some good performances and a few very well shot battle sequences thanks to having the talent of Lewis Milestone behind the camera (himself born in Russia), but the musical numbers are painfully awkward and the American cast being unable to even pronounce their own character names is tough to endure (Jane Withers, for god’s sake). The film was re-released in the fifties as Armored Attack, with half an hour of footage cut out, anti-Communist narration added and all references to the characters’ nationality removed.