Address Unknown (1944)
Directed by William Cameron Menzies. Written by Herbert Dalmas, Kressmann Taylor from a story by Taylor, Editing, Al Clark. Photography, Rudolph Maté. Art direction, Lionel Banks, Walter Holscher. Music, Ernst Toch, Mario Catelnuovo -Tedesco. Produced by William Cameron Menzies, Sam Wood. Cast: Paul Lukas (Martin Schulz, Carl Esmond(Baron von Friesche), Peter van Eyck( Heinrich Schulz), Mady Christians (Elsa Schultz), Morris Carnovsky (Max Eisenstein), K.T. Stevens (Griselle Eisenstein/Stone), et al. A Columbia production. 75 min.
Director William Cameron Menzies, the prestigious art director (GONE WITH THE WIND) who was also a less important film director (THINGS TO COME was his most significant work.) Paul Lukas, his son Peter Van Eyck, and his partner Morris Carnofsky are German-born art dealers in San Francisco.
Lukas goes back to Germany as Hitler is rising. A weak man, he is impressed by satanic Baron Carl Esmond. The latter helps him up the Nazi hierarchy. Lukas turns his back on Carnofsky, a Jew. Carnofsky's actress daughter (in Germany) defies the Nazi censors by restoring on stage the biblical "Blessed are the...." The antisemitic audience and troopers give chase and Lukas closes his door to her, with fatal results.
Revenge comes as he receives much coded mail from Carnofsky (but there's a twist here) which makes him, in turn, suspect and a victim of the Nazis. The film is well-meaning but sketchy and unconvincing. It lacks psychological and sociological depth and a true feeling for the period's Germany and Germans.
This was not at all unusual in pictures made by Hollywood about Nazidom during the 1930s through the end of World War II.
Generally speaking the world at large had not yet conceived -and could not-the cruelty, abuses, savagery of the Third Reich. It took the discovery of death camps - when the victorious G.I.s entered them, to witness the Holocaust; and the free media of the West to make known the horrid record, in all areas, of the Nazi regime. Before and even during the war even the huge Jewish presence in Hollywood --directors, studio heads, producers, actors, musicians, technicians, etc. etc. --a great many of them European Jews--were far from truly aware of the Nazis' crimes.
In this film the extras look like Americans wearing American clothes. Interior sets are cavernous, a bit a la CITIZEN KANE (so that it takes many steps to cross any room) and cliched as to their Germanness. They are systematically and often impressively shot with much depth of field, but no real depth in many other respects. The good photography (by the renowned Rudolph Mate) in a strange way often adds artificiality to the movie.
The musical score, by the way, is by two solid, respected composers who more often than not were uncredited - a practice that was oddly common in the olden days.
Whatever my reservations, the picture deserves watching. I will do this again when possible before I come up with a grade . (EJ)