After the success of "House on 92nd Street," 20th Century Fox gathered the film's producer, director, composer and co-writer John Monks, Jr. two years later for an interesting docu-drama, following the recruitment and training of U.S. operatives destined for secret agent work in Europe in the thick of World War II.
The first half uses various locations and production sound, whereas the second half gradually sways to more familiar dramatic sets, making the change in lighting styles rather amusing. Veteran cinematographer Norbert Brodine - another "92nd Street" alumnus - attempted a balance between standard dramatic lighting and the raw locations, and it's evident the unmovable walls of offices and high ceiling, wood paneled chambers were sometimes unforgiving to conventional studio lighting. Even director Henry Hathaway seemed to struggle with a few shots when the actors performed in rather tight rooms.
There's a nice diversity of U.S. and European-flavored locations, and 20th Century Fox's clean transfer is made from a decent print, with a nice punchy mono track.
Extras include the films trailer (which blows some key twists, but includes a deleted scene with Cagney from the film's finale), and a vintage newsreel. The latter combines captured Nazi footage of V-2 rocket launches, and film fans will recognize one shot from the opening of the 1953 "War of the Worlds" prologue. Though undated, the newsreel is really a collection of failed launches, explosions and mid-air disasters designed to ridicule the enemy.
Among the film's collection of character actors, film fans will recognize Karl Malden, in a teeny role as the pilot who oversees the group's parachuting into Holland.
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan