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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Classic Film Review: Hotel Reserve (1944)

Hotel Reserve stars James Mason as an Austrian medical student living in France who is also a bit of an amateur photographer. His camera gets mixed up with someone else's and he finds himself arrested as a spy. The authorities believe his innocence but send him back to the hotel to investigate his fellow guests under the threat of having his naturalisation bid revoked. Among the people Vadassy has to investigate are the owner Suzanne Koch (Lucie Mannheim), who seems to be in a conspiracy with Emil Schmiler (Frederick Valk), and honeymooning couple, Andre (Herbert Lom) and Odette Roux (Patricia Medina).

While this film is peppered with tension, it didn't grip me as much as I thought it might. Mason is excellent as the anxious student stuck between doing something he really doesn't want to do and the threat of deportation. His scenes with Frederick Valk are particularly interesting but the film suffers from the audience knowing the truth all along. While this is meant to add to the suspense, it serves to make Vadassy's interactions with the rest of the cast a little redundant. For example, the innocent Mary Skelton (Clare Hamilton) would have been a viable suspect for her closeness to Vadassy, had the culprit not already been known. Plus, listing the suspects on the screen for the audiences' benefit was an annoying and lazy interlude.

Hotel Reserve does have some clever scenes - and some amusing ones too. The moment when Vadassy uses the brash Robert Duclos (Raymond Lovell) adds some lightness to a rather dark film. The finale chase was a little predictable but no less enjoyable for that fact. However, I do feel that the fate of Emil Schmiler could and should have been explored more, especially in its effect on Suzanne Koch. It was a subplot, yes, but one that needed more tying up than it had.

Overall, this is a good James Mason film, worth seeing for the leading man alone. While it is nothing spectacular, it does contain a grim foreboding of what is to come in France during the war.

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