The work of the French Underground was grist for the Hollywood production mill both during and for many years after World War II. While Leonide Moguy’s Paris After Dark doesn’t rank as the best of those films where the Underground plays a significant role in its story, it’s still an entertaining mixture of wartime intrigue and patriotic fervor. With some stirring performances and a decent amount of suspense, Paris After Dark is a movie well worth seeing.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 480I/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 24 Min.
Package Includes: DVDAmray case
Disc Type: DVD-R
Release Date: 06/12/2013
When Frenchman Jean Blanchard (Philip Dorn) is released from a Nazi prisoner of war camp after two and a half years there, he returns to a Paris firmly under the control of the Nazis. Jean is convinced that the Nazis are unstoppable and thinks those trying to oppose them are foolishly fighting for nothing, but his nurse/wife Yvonne (Brenda Marshall) and Dr. Andre Marbel (George Sanders), who both work at the same hospital, are important members of the underground movement spreading leaflets with the truth about the war efforts and working to sabotage factories where war materials are being manufactured. Jean isn’t aware of his wife’s extracurricular activities; he thinks she’s sneaking out at night for amorous rendezvous with the esteemed surgeon, and it causes a rift between them, especially when she sees how her husband has lost all the fight left in him and given himself over completely to the idea of German superiority.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
Frenchman Leonide Moguy (who escaped France when the Germans invaded) smoothly directs the melodramatic scenes in Harold Buchman’s screenplay and maintains consistent sympathy for the people who are working to keep France’s spirits up during their years of occupation. Jean and Yvonne’s loving family (Jean Del Val and Ann Codee as the parents and Raymond Roe as younger brother George) gives a strong bond to the movie that keeps the viewer firmly in their corner, and even early scenes with Nazi Colonel Pirosh (Robert Lewis) don’t paint the enemy in the blackest possible shades (later events, of course, do emphasize their treachery and merciless indifference to human life). Threaded through the movie are suspenseful scenes where the underground meetings are close to being discovered or a traitorous Frenchman spills what he knows putting one of the main characters in a great deal of danger. Other moments for suspense (a delicate operation, the rounding up of escaping Frenchmen) are rather tossed aside for other matters, making the film only a good rather than a great wartime morale rouser.
George Sanders gives a steady, solid performance as the committed surgeon, but other performances make even stronger impressions. Brenda Marshall shows some real spunk and has some moving patriotic speeches as the brave nurse fighting to reclaim her country. Raymond Roe as her brother likewise has a couple of impressive speeches which exemplify his patriotism and nationalistic fervor. Philip Dorn has the role with the widest range as a defeated French soldier who must reclaim his confidence and fearlessness in the face of the enemy, and he does wonderfully well with a mostly understated performance. Marcel Dalio has a playful time with gossipy barber Michel, and his real-life wife Madeleine LeBeau as barmaid Collette offers a strong if less animated performance as an underground stalwart. Robert Lewis has just enough oily unctuousness as the Nazi colonel to command attention without overplaying his hand.
The film’s 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced. Though the grayscale is nicely balanced and sharpness is very good throughout, the transfer does have problems. Dust specks are everywhere pretty much throughout the film’s running time, and there is a curious fading along the right hand side of the frame through the entire movie. Reel change markers aren’t there at all their proper intervals, but they certainly turn up occasionally. The film has been divided into chapters every ten minutes so this film has 9 chapters.
Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound mix is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. Fidelity is nicely achieved in the mix with strong, easily discernible dialogue, Hugo Friedhofer’s involving score, and apt sound effects all balancing nicely with one another. Unfortunately, there is hiss present which becomes quite noticeable in quieter scenes, and there are pops on the soundtrack on occasion, too.
Audio Rating: 3/5
There are no bonus features on this MOD disc, not even a trailer.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
While it may smack a bit of Allied propaganda of the war years, Paris After Dark is nevertheless an entertaining wartime drama. The Fox Cinema Archives edition is rather mediocre in picture and sound but is certainly eminently watchable and an entertaining addition to the collection.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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