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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Classic Film Review: Cloak and Dagger (1946)

Cloak and Dagger stars Gary Cooper as Professor Alvah Jesper, a scientist who is recruited by the allied secret service to find out what stage the Germans are at with their development of a nuclear bomb. Jesper is sent to see Dr Lodor (Helene Thimig) in Switzerland after she has escaped from German control. However, she is then kidnapped and killed during a rescue attempt. Jesper's attention turns to a colleague of Lodor's, Dr Polda (Vladimir Sokoloff), who is trapped in Italy forced to help the Germans who have his daughter in detention. Jesper and the secret service set out to free both him and his daughter.

Now, if it sounds convoluted that's because it really is. The plot is haphazard and by the time you realise the point of the film is to rescue Polda and his daughter you've already got through most of the film. It goes to a lot of trouble to set up Dr Loder as the person in need of rescue then turns it upside down. While this could be considered a good twist, what it actually does is muddy what is already a disjointed film.

Jesper is an unusual hero for a film like this. He isn't in control of anything, he's the scientist constantly led by the secret service and their agents. Although there are a couple of 'exciting' moments, he is never the driving force behind the narrative. His conversion from scientist to helpful operative never really works for me. Neither does his romance with Gina (Lilli Palmer), an operative who helps him once he's in Italy. Palmer herself is as sublime as ever in one of her early roles but proves to be one of the only things I liked about the film.

Hammy death scenes, convoluted plot and an unheroic hero - not the best WWII film I've seen by far.

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