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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

'Dangerously They Live' DVD: John Garfield Takes on a Reichous Cause

Dangerously They Live
The Warner Archive DVD release of the 1941 John Garfield drama "Dangerously They Live" is part of a batch of awesome Garfield films that Archive first made available several weeks ago. These include the previously reviewed "East of the River."

The interesting factoids that Archive shares regarding this film that pits Garfield's Dr. Michael Lewis against a New York nest of Nazis include that "Dangerously" is timely in that its release date is roughly three weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor and that it reflects the warnings for which Garfield is known as a pre-WWII member of an Anti-Nazi League.

The Hitchcockian tale has medical intern Lewis meeting British agent Jane when she is brought to the hospital where he works. Her arrival relates to a car crash that occurs in the course of an abduction by fascists.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of an early scene from "Dangerously" nicely demonstrates the aforementioned Hitchcock vibe.
Although Jane is uninjured in the crash, she feigns amnesia to gain entrance to the mansion from which the Nazis are operating. Complications arise in the forms of Jane possessing time-sensitive information that she must pass on and ala Nazi agent Dr. Ingersoll being a mentor of Lewis. Confused? You won't be after watching this DVD of "Dangerously."

In an awesome bit of casting, Raymond Massey plays the doctor who is a madman with an evil mind in "Dangerously." This is amusing in the context of Massey going on to play the highly principled and revered/feared Dr. Leonard Gillespie in the '60s medical drama "Dr. Kildare." 

Lewis gets involved when Jane recruits him as her confederate under the guise of assisting Ingersoll. The theory is that Lewis will be more free than her to roam about Chez Nazi.

An initially skeptical Lewis ultimately believes Jane and gets fully caught up in the intrigue. This leads to tense cat-and-mouse moments and exciting confrontations.

Some of the best scenes center around a German-American man whose declarations of support for pro-fascist picnics and other peaceful activity but opposition to kidnapping and other serious offenses falls on deaf ears. It is difficult to imagine that any American film would portray a fascist character in a sympathetic manner.

A more disturbing (but understandable) aspect of "Dangerously" relates to Jane repeatedly referring to the gorgeous home in which she and Lewis are captives only in the sense that they are not allowed on the grounds or the surrounding area unescorted as a concentration camp. This is despicable to those of us in 2014 who have detailed knowledge of the camps but is excusable from the perspective of people in 1940 who are somewhat blissfully ignorant.

This wonderful melange of elements from the dawn of WWII add a great sociological aspect to a good film.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Dangerously" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.