Commandos Strike at Dawn (1942)
Director: John Farrow.
Starring: Paul Muni (Eric Toresen), Anna Lee (Judith Bowen), Lillian Gish (Mrs. Bergesen), Cedric Hardwicke (Admiral Bowen), Ray Collins (Johan Bergesen), Robert Coote (Robert Bowen), Rosemary DeCamp (Hilma Arnesen), Alexander Knox (German Captain), Elisabeth Fraser (Anna Korstad), Richard Derr (Gunnar Korstad), Erville Alderson (Johan Garme), Barbara Everest (Mrs. Olav), Rod Cameron (Pastor), Louis Jean Heydt (Karl Arnesen), George Macready (Schoolteacher).
"For long past the kingdom of Norway had been a domain of peace. Content with their pattern of honesty and industry they were a people who feared naught and envied nobody. So it was in the summer of 1939."
Eric Toresen takes his lunch basket to go to work at the docks. He says good morning to a fisherman named Gunnar Korstad and his brother Alfred. Gunnar asks Eric if he's going to come to his wedding tonight? Eric says, of course, he's going. Gunnar says Anna has invited the English admiral to the wedding. And with him is coming his pretty daughter.
The wedding cake is all ready to be eaten. Anna cuts the cake and hands out some pieces. Then she and Gunnar, along with Eric, take cake slices over to their three English guests. Admiral Bowen is there along with his daughter Judith and his son, Robert. Eric dances with Judith.
The Admiral comes over to the huge punch bowl to have a drink. Mr. Bergesen is there and he starts, as always, speaking about politics. He is worried about Germany, but one of the fishermen says the herring will run regardless if the Germans come to Norway or not. Bergesen asks the Admiral if the English are just as much asleep politically as the Norwegians? The Admiral replies: "Perhaps dosing a little."
The wedding reception is being held at the local hotel run by Mr. Lars Arnesen. He talks with his wife Hilma Arnesen in the kitchen.
Eric and Judith go outside to enjoy the summer night. Eric was married in the Arnesen Hotel seven years ago. His wife died and he only has his daughter Solveig. She is currently sleeping with the other children. They go inside to check on Solveig. They talk to her a little while, and then go.
Robert and the Admiral wonder if anything serious will develop between Judith and Eric. The Admiral doesn't think so.
Eric is a bit upset that Judith will soon be going back to England. She says she may come back next spring or summer. Judith now says it's getting late and she better go in. She says good night and leaves.
Judith leaves on a large luxury ship. From home she starts a letter to Eric. Over the radio comes the news: "The British ambassador in Berlin handed to the German government a final note stating that unless we heard that they were preparing at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us." It's war! Warsaw in flames. Germany guarantees Belgium neutrality. Hitler promises peace to Holland. Denmark occupied. Norway's neutrality assured, says Fuehrer. Norway invaded!
It's 1940 now. The Germans take over the Norwegian radio and broadcast that the King and the government wants no resistance from the Norwegian people. Eric listens to a policeman tell the townspeople that there will be no resistance against the German occupation.
And here comes the Germans on motorcycles and in cars racing into the downtown area of the little village. The officer in charge reads a speech about how the Germans are making a New World Order and there is a good place for "our friends and brothers, the Norwegians." There will be a curfew at 6:30 every night. Anyone violating the curfew will be shot. In addition, no boats are to leave the harbor under pain of death.
Someone must have turned in Bergesen for criticizing the German occupation because Bergesen is to be held for questioning.
And now even more German forces come into town. There are probably more soldiers here in the town then there are Norwegians. Certain books from the library are burned. Radios are to be confiscated. The Germans also take away blankets and valuable items from the Norwegian houses.
Alfred is going to take a boat out into the harbor. He is seen and shot dead by a guard.
The Germans force the teacher to teach racial prejudice in the schools. Eric tells his daughter not to believe those lies told by the Germans.
The Germans now grab the 17 to 25 year old village males to make them work in the mines of Narvik.
Bergesen, looking like he has been tortured, walks into the downtown area. Eric asks him if he is all right. The older man says he made it through anyway. Eric walks the man to his home and his wife. In his home Bergesen observes: "I knew they were bad, but I had no idea how bad they were. Nobody . . . no civilized human being can know how bad they are."
Eric now holds a resistance meeting. He says they need to change from being the murdered Norwegian people to the murdering Norwegian people. They must learn from the Germans how to become gangsters and thugs. Anna is scared by this kind of talk. She says to let the others win the war, the Norwegians can't do anything now. She is scared that like her brother-in-law Alfred, Gunnar might be killed too. Eric says that if anyone wishes to be excused from the meeting, please go now. No one leaves the room.
The Resistance starts blowing up German equipment and oil supplies. They also knock out trains and rails. Sunday religious services are canceled by the clergymen.
The Norwegian kids sing a patriotic song, which make the German officer in charge mighty angry.
A German chauffeur stops to ask a Norwegian man directions. The Norwegian sends the driver in the wrong direction and very soon the Norwegian hears a great explosion.
German soldiers capture Gunnar listening to the radio. The next day Gunnar is executed by a firing squad.
A German Colonel goes outside and tells the orderly to go get a light for his cigar. As the orderly walks into the cabin, he hears a gasp of pain. He turns around and runs back to the Colonel. The Colonel has been stabbed!
Eric and Solveig walk in the night to the home of Mrs. Olav. He has come to the farm so that Mrs. Olav could hide Solveig in case the Germans ever came looking for her. Mrs. Olav insists that Eric stay the night at the farm too. She tells Eric that the German Colonel has been killed. Then she asks if Eric killed the Colonel? He certainly did.
In the morning Mrs. Olav rushes over to get Eric up. The Germans are coming! Eric rushes to grab his daughter and out the back they go. Solveig holds on to her father's neck and he lowers himself down into the well outside.
A German officer speaks with Mrs. Olav and he tells her that the penalty for hiding a murderer is death. Last night they took five hostages in the town. If Eric does not show up in two days, the five will be shot. And one of the hostages is Mrs. Olav's grandson Pedar. The Germans leave. Eric and Solveig now come out of the well. Eric has to tell his daughter that he has to go away for a little while now.
Eric goes up into the mountains. There he has to hide from two German patrols coming from opposite directions.
Eric sees a German plane land on a grass clearing. He listens to a couple of guards talking about how in two weeks there will be hundreds of German planes here. And General von Breugel will be coming here too.
At night Eric goes to the home of a man named Garmo. Garmo tells Eric that it's past curfew time. They seem hostile to Eric. Eric says he has heard that Garmo has a hidden boat. He wants Garmo to help him use the boat to get to England. He adds: "I've discovered they're building a secret airfield." They are going to make some kind of an attack using that airfield. Garmo says that five men have been shot for the murder of German Colonel Von Dorn. Eric gets up saying he's going to turn himself in. Garmo stops him and tells him that he will take Eric to England.
Garmo goes to town to tell some others about their plans. He speaks to Bergesen, the pastor and Arnesen. After listening to Bergesen, Arnesen goes right up to speak with the German captain. He tells the Captain that a boat is leaving for England with six or more men on board. And Eric Toreson will be one of those men.
Mr. Arnesen leaves, but Mrs Arnesen follows him. Eric stops her and she tells Eric that her husband warned the Germans about the boat leaving. She says Lars has a dog whistle. When they get to a certain place, Lars will blow on the whistle and the dogs will hear it and the German sound detectors will also pick it up.
Eric gets in the boat and off they go. When Lars tries to take something out of his pocket, Eric grabs him by the neck with one hand over his mouth. He tells Lars not to move or he will strangle him.
The Germans turn on their search lights because they figure something must have gone wrong.
Garmo figures that they are out of reach of the spot lights already. So now Eric shows the men the dog whistle Lars was going to use to alert the Germans. The men tie Lars up and then throw him into the sea where the turncoat drowns.
The men run into a bad storm but persevere through it. A submarine surfaces and the men are afraid it might be a German submarine. No, it's English. The men are so glad.
Eric gets in to see Admiral Bowen. He tells the naval men everything he knows about the German set-up in Norway. The English are especially interested in knocking out the airfield because it would be used to sight their convoys to Russia from the air. One officer asks Eric if he would guide the British commandos to this airdrome? Of course, Eric would. Also working here for the British Navy is Judith Bowen in her naval uniform. She is shocked to see Eric here in the office. They are both happy to see each other. Judith tells him she wrote him 10 letters but never send any of them. Eric says he's been thinking of her too. Judith and Eric decide to have dinner together tonight. Then Admiral Bowen comes out and spoils it all by saying that Eric and he will be flying to Scotland tonight.
In Scotland, Eric meets up with Robert Bowen in uniform. Robert tells Eric that Judith talks a lot about Eric at home. The conversation has to be short between the two men, because they both have to get some very needed sleep before taking off on a commando raid.
Judith is right there to greet Eric when he and Robert walk by. She says they can have that dinner now. At the dinner Eric says when he gets back from the raid he will call Judith and ask her to marry him. She asks him: "You won't forget will you?" He promises: "I won't forget."
The commandos board the ship headed for Norway. On board ship the execution plan is gone over thoroughly. The commandos should be at the airport by 0630 hours. The attack will be at 0645 hours.
The commandos lower themselves by ropes onto the landing boat. They land and the men start running out of the landing boat. Eric leads the way. The men travel by the river to avoid being seen.
The commandos reach the airport. One of the guards is killed with a knife. The signal to attack is given and the Germans are caught by surprise. The men kill the Germans and blow up the planes. They also destroy the German anti-aircraft artillery.
German artillery is set up to fire on the British ship. The naval guns wipe out the German artillery.
The commandos have complete control of the airfield by now. Wounded men are bandaged up. The men head back to their ship.
Eric is the first to get back because he is excited about seeing his daughter, but the commandos have some bad news for Eric. Mrs. Olav's house was burned down. A local farmer said the Germans took the old woman and the girl to the village inn. That's where they are holding all their hostages. Eric starts to run for the inn, but Robert says the able-bodied commandos will go with him. They get into the village without being seen. Eric goes along the streets telling people to get inside the buildings.
A German sergeant recognizes Eric and pulls his gun out, but Robert shoots the man dead. A little later, Robert gets shot trying to toss a grenade. The grenade rolls on the ground. Eric rushes out and grabs the grenade. He throws it and gets a bull's eye knocking out the guarded position. Eric too is shot down. The Nazi flag is taken down and Nazi soldiers are taken prisoners.
Many of the hostages are taken to the boat headed back for England. Robert and Eric both died in the raid. The Norwegians say they will come back to Norway. The narrator says: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
Good movie about the Norwegian Resistance against German occupation during WWII as seen in the actions of the people of a small Norwegian village. A local man named Eric takes the leadership role in the Resistance and they do inflict a lot of damage on the German war machine. Then with the help of the British, the Norwegians inflict even greater damage on the Germans. There's lots of action and tension as the Resistance inflicts damage and the Germans start killing Norwegian hostages. Paul Muni (as Eric Toresen) was good in his role.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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