Although the scar of blacklisting from the Second Red Scare tainted his career near the end of his life, Irving Pichel should be noted as one of the few who have found success as both an actor and director in Hollywood. After spending much of the 1930’s as a character actor, he moved more and more into the director’s chair – following a notable debut earlier in the decade with The Most Dangerous Game (1932) – in the 1940’s with films like The Pied Piper (1942), A Medal for Benny (1945), The Bride Wore Boots (1946) and later – one of the first Technicolor science fiction movies – Destination Moon (1950). However, he made a name for himself with several WWII themed movies as a director, which O.S.S. is among them. Previously released on MOD DVD by Universal, Kino has licensed the movie for its Blu-ray debut.
The Production: 3.5/5
When he’s caught for attempting to steal plans for an electric circuit, John Martin (Alan Ladd) isn’t thrown in jail but turned over to the Office of Strategic Services, who believe he can be of service to them. Sure enough, he’s paired with four others – including Elaine Dupree (Geraldine Fitzgerald) – and sent into Nazi occupied France to blow up a railroad tunnel. However, the group finds themselves in increasing danger as D-Day comes closer, and Martin and Elaine have to stay a step ahead of the Nazis if they plan to make it out of France alive!
The first of three movies to deal with the WWII precursor to the modern day CIA (Fritz Lang’s Cloak and Dagger and Henry Hathaway’s 13 Rue Madeleine would be released to theaters shortly after this one), O.S.S. is a interesting yet fictionalized look at the organization’s exploits during the conflict. Writer and producer Richard Maibaum – having just been discharged from the Army upon his return to Paramount Pictures – utilized his information (as well as some of his connections) to great effect as the film is a mostly straightforward look at the organization. However, due to the fact that the studio was rushing to beat Lang’s and Hathaway’s films to the theaters first, some of the plot threads and characterizations appear to feel a bit truncated and not fully developed as a result; that’s likely the only real issue with the film. Other than that, O.S.S. is a nicely done WWII thriller that took a look at the men and women who worked in the shadows – some of whom gave their life – to make sure the Allies were successful.
When Paramount couldn’t pry Sterling Hayden – who was in the OSS at the time of production – away from service, they turned to Alan Ladd, who’s decent as the failed thief turned successful agent; he would reunite with Maibaum a few years later on another OSS themed drama, Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950). Geraldine Fitzgerald acquits herself well as the woman brought into the OSS and the subject of infatuation of German Col. Meister; Patric Knowles is solid as the commander of the group in France. Better known for his appearances in TV and in character parts in science fiction and horror movies, John Hoyt makes for a good bad guy as Meister; in his first role after returning from WWII, Richard Webb makes the most of his time as a fellow OSS spy. Rounding out the cast here are Gloria Saunders as Sparky the WAC radio operator, Harold Vermilyea as the Gestapo agent Martin and Elaine make a deal with, Richard Benedict as the ill fated radio operator of the group, Don Beddoe as the agent who gets killed off at a rural inn, Gavin Muir and Joseph Crehan as – respectively – the colonel and general overseeing the mission and little Bobby Driscoll as the French boy who tries, in vain, to persuade Martin to go back for Elaine in the movie’s climax.
3D Rating: NA
The film is presented in its original 1:37:1 aspect ratio, taken from a new 2k master created for this release. Film grain is organic, with gray scale and fine details mostly given a faithful representation; however, there is an abundance of scratches, vertical line and dirt present in several scenes, largely owing to the state of the elements used for the master. Despite that, this release does represent an improvement over the previous MOD DVD and likely the best the movie will ever look on home video.
The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue is strong and clear, with sound mix and music score (composed by the combo of Daniele Amfitheatrof and Heinz Roemheld) also given a faithful and clear representation as well; there’s minimal to no issues like distortion, crackling or hissing present here. Overall, this is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video and is another improvement over the MOD DVD.
Special Features: 3/5
Commentary by film historian Samm Deighan – Recorded for this release, Deighan talks about the movie’s production as well as the real life OSS and its origins.
Theatrical Trailer (2:06)
A hit at the box office during its theatrical run – according to its producer/screenwriter – O.S.S. survives as a decent little thriller chronicling the work of the eponymous organization on a fictional yet entertaining level. Kino has done a equally decent job with this release, with a solid HD transfer and the typically informative and insightful commentary track that has become almost expected from the label. Highly recommended and worth upgrading from the MOD DVD.
Amazon.com: O.S.S. [Blu-ray] : Alan Ladd, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Patric Knowles, John Hoyt, Gloria Saunders, Richard Webb, Richard Benedict, Harold Vermilyea, Don Beddoe, Onslow Stevens, Irving Pichel: Movies & TV
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