Secret Mission (1942)
Director: Harold French
Cast: Hugh Williams, James Mason, Carla Lehmann
Synopsis: In this World War II suspense thriller, three British spies and a French resistance fighter sneak into occupied France to gather infor- mation about the German forces for a planned invasion.
I couldn’t help thinking the writers of the 1980s British comedy show Allo Allo must have seen Secret Mission at some point because the similarities are just too numerous to be coincidental. The only difference is that Secret Mission is straight while Allo Allo is a broad farce.
Probably the only comical aspect of the movie is James Mason’s French accent, but he does at least look suitably embarrassed as he substitutes ‘z’s for ‘th’s. He’s a member of the free French Army, enlisted to return to France in order to gain intelligence about German numbers. His comrades on the trip are Hugh Williams as a terribly proper Major; Roland Culver who seems to treat the entire expedition as something of a jolly jape, and Michael Wilding as a cockney soldier married to a French cafe proprietress.
Our heroes gain access into German command by posing as Champagne salesmen (I kid you not), and effortlessly coax the information they need from German officers. ‘We also have some decent beer,’ Williams tells them. ‘How many troops do you have?’ The Germans are straight out of central casting. All of them are ugly – or plain, at best. They smoke cigarettes through long holders and wear their hair slicked back. One or two of them have scars.
The film does have some good points though. There’s a decent scene in which a German soldier, rifling through the house of a French family aiding the Brits, turns on the radio to hear the strident tones of Herr Hitler. Satisfied, the soldier departs just before a British announcer states that ‘this is the type of speech Hitler is still giving to the Germans.’ There’s a few other good moments scattered amongst the routine, but overall this kind of picture now serves purely as an example of the type of propaganda the allies were fed during wartime.
(Reviewed 7th February 2012)