This review is for the WW2 Nazi occupation drama called This Land Is Mine (1943)
What’s going down?
When a small town in “France” is overrun by German soldiers during the Second World War the locals have to deal with the occupation in differing ways. Some are scared and cowards, others steadfast and rebellious. Some find the way to survive is to comply or integrate to the Nazi German way. Others resort to sabotage, to become resistance fighters. Willing to die for their country. The ones that can’t fight write and print freedom and liberty newsletters to help keep the spirits and faith alive.
A German officer is willing to let everyday working life carry on as normal. To try and keep the status quo. As Allied bombing raids force the town folk below ground in air raid shelters and bunkers. It’s the introduction of censorship within literature, the burning of books and tearing out of pages that push two teachers and their beloved Professor over the edge. Meanwhile a young man inflicts sabotage against the unwanted army whenever and wherever he can.
“Sabotage is the only weapon left to a defeated people. And so long as we have saboteurs, the other free nations, who are still fighting on the battle front, will know that we are not defeated.“
The main players
Maureen O’Hara – Louise Martin
Charles Laughton – Albert Lory
Kent Smith – Paul Martin
George Sanders – George Lambert
Walter Slezak – Major Erich von Keller
Una O’Connor – Mrs. Emma Lory
Philip Merivale – Prof. Sorel
Sure I’ve seen them in something?
Maureen O’Hara plays the brave and caring school teacher Louise. Wise and always on the lookout for others, especially her younger brother Paul played by Kent Smith. Looking through Maureen O’Hara’s filmography I’m a bit ashamed to say I haven’t seen many. Three I think! The Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Rio Grande (1950) with John Wayne and the one I want to see again Our Man in Havana (1959) with Alec Guinness. Now Kent Smith is an actor I’d never heard of and the reason I found this film. He played the besotted doofus in the excellent Nora Prentiss (1947) alongside the wonderful Ann Sheridan and off I went to investigate. That’s when I spied the interesting title of This Land Is Mine. His character Paul is a brave and fearless saboteur causing havoc for the occupying German foe. On a side note, I was shocked to see Kent Smith was a regular on one of my favourite sci-fi TV shows The Invaders. I’d never recognised him.
Charles Laughton plays teacher Albert Lory. Not far removed from an imbecile with an almost incestuous relationship with his elderly mother Emma played by Una O’Connor. Charles can be found in the masterclass Billy Wilder film Witness for the Prosecution (1957) the noir The Big Clock (1948) with Ray Milland and the superb Edwardian era mystery thriller The Suspect (1944) with the crazy beautiful Ella Raines. His bonkers film mum Una O’Connor will be known to many as the hysterical landlady in The Invisible Man (1933) and Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) which I still need to see!
The guy who is everywhere, George Sanders plays George Lambert. He is engaged to Louise and the boss of the railway yard looked over by the Nazi’s. George Sanders has that incredible voice. So instantly memorable and of course he will always be known as Shere Khan the Tiger in The Jungle Book (1967). This guy is in so many amazing films. Two great Alfred Hitchcock films in the same year, Rebecca (1940) Foreign Correspondent (1940). Fritz Lang’s chase film Man Hunt (1941) and All About Eve (1950) with Bette Davis to name just a small few of his great work.
Notes on production?
This Land Is Mine is directed by Jean Renoir the son of world renown artist and impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. I don’t believe I’ve seen any of his films! Please feel free to recommend me where to start.
The movie screenplay is written by Dudley Nichols and Jean Renoir. I had imagined it was adapted from a book but I don’t believe this to be true. It’s essentially a propaganda film to boost the Allied fight against the approaching Nazi war machine. I read that on it’s opening day it was hugely successful setting new records for theater takings.
Hits like a sledge hammer
There are some really powerful scenes within this film. I can’t really say what they are so not to spoil the moment. What I will say is there’s bravery, betrayal and sacrifice. One scene between two fellow countrymen results in a face to face that shows deep emotion and regret. It’s very powerful.
“Citizens – do not believe in the generosity of the conquerors. If they are not driven out of our land, means generations of slavery for our people. We must resist. Let each of us say to himself, “This land is mine.”“
I have to give this to Major Erich von Keller played by Walter Slezak. He plays the German officer with a prosthetic hand. The Major really just wants an easy job. Happy to let his captured prisoners go about their daily lives as long as they behave. Wishing to relax, be friendly, drink fine wine and ride out his time in as much peace as possible. Even going as far as letting a few sabotage attempts go unpunished. It’s only when two of his men are killed that he has to reluctantly make a stand and show his superiority.
Major Erich von Keller – “After all, what is the United States? A charming cocktail of Irish and Jews. Very spectacular; but, very childish. And England? A few old ladies wearing their grandfathers’ leather britches.“
Stick with this one. It’s a bit strange to start with. The nondescript country and town with English shop names and road signs throws you a little. Then Charles Laughton’s Albert Lory turns up and his portrayal of the school teacher as a simpleton, overly childish and a buffoon. Dribbling milk and cowering and whimpering to his mother in an almost slap stick way nearly put me off. However the rest of the cast kept my interest, especially the Major and the cheeky Kent Smith going about his resistance ways. Besides you can thankfully see that Laughton’s Albert is on a bravery curve. When it arrives we find ourselves in pure Charles Laughton’s acting masterclass form and he carries out a deep speech in the courtroom. Then later reading to his boys the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. It ends on perfect note.
Fancy something similar? Try Fritz Lang’s World War 2 film, Hangmen Also Die (1943)
Wolfman’s rating 7.5/10 IMDB 7.6/10
Feel free to recommend me related movies and any other trivia if you wish. Keep having fun at the movies…. Mikey Wolf