Thursday, November 17, 2016
'Pimpernel Smith' BD (Leslie) Howard's Heroes Foil Nazis
The Olive Films November 15, 20176 Blu-ray release of the 1941 Leslie Howard (of "Gone With the Wind," "The Scarlet Pimpernel," and scads o' other classics) dramedy is one of two Olive BD releases of WWII-era propaganda films that day; the second is the (soon-to-be-reviewed) 1942 drama "One of Our Aircraft is Missing."
One of the first impressions of "Smith" is that is very true to an awesome philosophy of comedy god Mel Brooks. Brooks is well-known for explaining making light of the hNazis in films such as "The Producers" by stating that ridiculing that genuine basket of deplorables helps rob them of their power.
The heart of "Smith" also comes through in an opening statement that the story is fictitious but is based on (and dedicated) to all the people who risked so much to thwart the Nazis.
One of the most striking images of this openly admitted propaganda film comes in an early period. Audio of Adolph Hitler angrily ranting in German is played over a poster of a peaceful scene the invites people to visit romantic Germany.
Director Howard stars as titular absent-minded archaeology professor by night and (Scarlet Pimpernel-inspired) daring champion of justice by night Horatio Smith. His early exploits that IMDb describes as rescuing "victims of Nazi persecution" in Germany in the days leading up to WWII sets the stage for the primary caper of the film.
True to his habit of being the Bugs Bunny to the Nazis' Elmer Fudd, Smith recruits a group of his Cambridge students (including brash and impudent American David Maxwell) to outwardly spend their summer on a dig in Germany. Smith uses the assertion that the purpose of the excavation is to prove that Aryan civilization once existed in that country to obtain permission for the venture.
Meanwhile, the German military is actively seeking to discover who both is helping people flee their country in the dead of the night and making the Nazis look foolish in the process. This effort leads a German general to attend a party at the British embassy at which Smith and his students are also present.
The party scene is one of the most notable in the film in that it provides Smith several opportunities to cleverly (and hilariously) make fools of his enemy and brings this educator and his students in contact with pretty young New Yorker Ludmilla Koslowski. Well-known character actress Mary Morris plays this role well.
The unconventional triangle that forms consists of Maxwell courting Ludmilla, who is trying to enlist the aid of Smith to rescue her journalist father from a concentration camp, while she also is trying convince the aforementioned general that she is not breaking their agreement to work as his agent in exchange for the release of her father.
Stating much more about the plot would spoil the equally well-presented humor and drama in the film. It is worth noting that one comical scene that reflects Nazi propaganda regarding the conditions in concentration camps is a sad reminder of the ignorance of the world-at-large as to life behind the walls and fences of those genuine Hells on earth.
A less bothersome poke at Nazi propaganda has Smith having fun with the assertion that Shakespeare is of German descent.
Suffice it to say regarding "Smith as a whole" that this well-plotted story keeps the action and the laughs coming up to the end and creates unrealized hope that it will be the start of a beautiful franchise.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Smith" is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.