Le septieme jour de Saint-Malo
(The Seventh Day in Saint Malo) (1960)
Director: Paul Mesnier.
Starring: Andrée Servilanges (Mme Picard), Annie Andrel (Yvonne), Roland Lesaffre (François - un guide malouin), Reinhard Kolldehoff (Von Sullock - le commandant allemand du camp), Jean-Pierre Kérien (Le maire de Saint-Malo), Jean Michaud (Jean), Alain Bouvette, Tania Florey, Alan Scott (Tony - un jeune officier britannique), Jean-Pierre Zola (Le directeur du cabaret).
French film faithfully reconstructs the hardships the town of Saint Malo suffered in August 1944, shortly before the arrival of the Allies
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
"Today, 6th August 1944, the 61st day of the allied landings in Normandy, our troops forge their way towards the capital. The American 7th army corps, surrounding the Cotentin peninsula, advances on the Dol marshes. Saint-Malo, the famous pirate town, is in sight."
Saint-Malo is a walled-city located on the coast of the English Channel, northwest France and at the mouth of the Rance River on the east side, Brittany in Normandy.
A small French ship is stopped by the Nazis on a larger ship. They are going to search the vessel when an air raid siren goes off. The search is canceled and the Nazi ship proceeds ahead. After the Nazis have left two men come out of their hiding place. They are going to have to swim ashore. German anti-aircraft guns fire away.
The guys, one French and one English, land not far from Saint-Malo. Tony is the Englishman and François is the Frenchman. François and Tony have 36 hours for their mission to help save Saint-Malo. The Frenchman says his wife lives in Saint-Malo and he hasn't seen her in three months. At a designated pick-up spot, a Frenchman throws down a rope to them from the walled-city. Tony tells the man with the rope that they will be back in two days.
The guys start walking. They are spotted by a German guard, but he only tells the two fellows to get into an air raid shelter immediately.
A German captain returns to his office. He tells a pretty, young French woman, his personal secretary, that the colonel absolutely insists that all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 65 are to be locked up in the Fort National.
The two agents come out of the air-raid shelter and François sees his wife, Yvonne. The two fellows run up to her and husband and wife embrace.
Yvonne's boss in a restaurant asks the female bartender, his wife Tania, where is Yvonne? The bartender says she doesn't know. So the boss steps outside looking for Yvonne and he finds the group of three. The boss is surprised to see that François is back. He tells the three to have something to eat in his restaurant. The three men have a drink at the bar and then they go find their room so they can sleep. Tony tells François that he had asked for a single man for this mission. He adds: "To see your wife, you've brought us into the lion's jaws."
Tania sings for the customers. Meanwhile, Yvonne sneaks up to the room and says that the Gestapo are here: "Has someone informed on you?" François only says that Tony doesn't feel safe here, so they have to find someplace else. Neither of the men trust the boss. They are going over to an uncle's house to hide.
In the restaurant a German sailor gets drunk and starts singing that he has had a belly-full already of the German occupation. A German lieutenant is sitting next to him. The sailor goes too far when he says that Hitler can go to hell. The lieutenant marches the man to the captain's office. A little while later, the German lieutenant lies dead in the street.
The commandant asks his assistant why is she sad? They are only going to lock-up the local men, so they can fight the Allies without interference. The assistant points out that the captain only has 120 men, but the German says Saint-Malo is impregnable. She starts to leave, but the officer tells her to stay. She complains to him that she has been detained in this building for ten days. The officer says he did this to protect her because the locals hate French collaborators.
The Germans find the two hiding men and they are taken to a waiting area.
The captain speaks to a local priest. He says that last night Lt. Schmidt was murdered by terrorists. That's why they are locking up all able-bodied men.
The restaurant boss and the piano player are grabbed and put in the waiting area. The French women are worried that the Germans will hold the men as hostages. Once the men are altogether, they are marched to the prison. The women watch from the city walls as the men march across the sandy beach to the isolated prison.
A French boy steals a pig from the Germans. The Germans are called out to get to their battle stations. The invasion of Normandy has begun. They start firing their guns, but it's not quite clear who they are shooting at.
In the prison the priest tells everyone to turn in any food they have and they will ration it out fairly and equally. They will also have to ration the water.
Tony and François are looking for their "source" among the prisoners. They ask a fisherman if he knows who lives at a certain address. He doesn't know, but will find out for them. There are sounds of fighting and sights of black smoke from fires started in the city.
One of the guys talks with Tony and François. After he leaves, they wonder if the guy is an informer. François says the guy used to spend every afternoon at the Kommandantur.
Since the captain is out, his French assistant decides to leave the office for awhile. She has to pass a check point and there she is given a guard who will walk with her. She goes to speak with Tania and François' uncle. She tells s woman named Tania that that the captain wants the music he left with the pianist. Tania takes her to the drawer where the music is kept. The assistant grabs some music and then leaves. She meets the captain on her way back and he scolds her about going out alone. She replies that she had an armed guard. She gives the music to the captain and he is pleased.
Three women walk over to the prison with three suitcases filled with food. They hand them over the the priest at the gate. François gets to see Yvonne for a short while. On their way back to the fort they are fired at and Yvonne is wounded. The other two women pick her up and help her into Saint-Malo.
The captain's assistant puts a secret note into the package holding a violin string. She cuts one of the strings of the violin. The captain hears the noise and comes out to ask her what happened? She says nothing happened. She was just thinking of how nice it would be to get the violin to its owner Jean. The captain says they arrested a priest and he is going over to the prison. The priest will carry the violin to Jean. He puts the string package in the violin case and closes it up.
The captain's assistant watches as the priest walks to the prison carrying the violin case.
Allied ships start firing into France. The men in the prison watched what's going on from the fort. The violin player gets the violin and the note in the case from the captain's assistant. In the bombardment, ten prisoners are killed and 17 wounded.
A Frenchman loses it when another man speaks of the dead and wounded Frenchmen. He blows up because he thinks the man is trying to blame him for the deaths: "So stop going on at me about the dead and wounded!" François comes over to him and says that he has something that will cheer him up. It's some licorice candy. This is the code word and Maurice replies appropriately. Now both men have found each other. Maurice says his contact is Mrs. Picard, the secretary at the Kommandantur. Even the Gestapo trust her.
Prisoner Matho dies. Captain Hauffman tells Mrs. Picard that ten of the prisoners died. She asks: "Why this obstinacy in defending Saint-Malo? The Americans surround you." Hauffman starts to tell her he doesn't want to hear that defeatist talk, but is interrupted by a phone call. He takes his secretary with him to see the colonel, because the colonel always enjoys seeing a pretty woman. The colonel welcomes Mrs. Picard warmly and then gives Hauffman a note in answer to his recent inquiry.
Planes start dropping bombs on Saint-Malo. Mrs. Picard slips away from the two men. She sees the note, which says: "My men are going mad. Not a single historic town is holding out. You will fight to the last man, to the last stone." It is signed by Adolf Hitler. She returns to the two men.
The colonel tells Hauffman to tell Mrs. Picard to investigate this Andre Hurel. This fellow is in the fort and it's he who is responsible for the sabotage.
The dead bodies and the wounded bodies are brought from the prison to the town. Tony and François use this as an opportunity to sneak out of the prison. They take off their clothes and in their bathing suits they start swimming out into the English Channel.
The dead and wounded are brought to the make-shift hospital. The priest reads out the names of the dead and wounded to a group of French women. After reading the names of the dead, the priest receives two more names of men who died on the way over. One of the names is Andre Hurel. Hauffman takes note of the passing of Hurel.
Hauffman says that they may be able to get the civilians out of the town alive. The priest and Jean the violin player are going to negotiate with the Allies.
Tony and François swim over to the area held by the Americans.
Jean tells the Allies all about the situation in Saint-Malo. The problem is that the Allies know nothing of Jean and his British contacts. So how can they believe Jean? He could be going to spring a trap on the Americans.
The mayor and Jean now speak with Captain Hauffman. He says tomorrow the civilians can leave, but the prisoners must stay in the Fort National.
In the morning the civilians start leaving Saint-Malo. The prisoners see the civilians being evacuated and so they grab the key from the priest's assistant. They leave the prison.
Captain Hauffman tells his troops not to open fire. The women run to the prisoners. Tania has to go look for her husband. He fell off a rock high and died. Tania tells him that she told him this would turn out bad.
"The Allies entered Saint-Malo that morning. Only the chateau still held out."
The Americans drive into the court yard of the chateau. Via a loud speaker they tell Hauffman that he must surrender because they are going to blow up the place in eight minutes. Mrs. Picard tries to get Hauffman to surrender. She tells him that he can see for himself that the war is over.
Hauffman comes out first. A little later Mrs. Picard comes out. And now the soldiers march out. Hauffman is taken as a POW along with his men.
The last scene is of a memorial tablet with all the names of the men who "died for the Liberation of France, 5th to 13th August 1944.
Pretty good film. It's straight forward telling of the destruction and freeing of the French town of Saint-Malo during the D-Day invasion starting June 6, 1944. The two agents for the Allies start as main characters, but gradually they slip into the background and are virtually forgotten. Another agent tells the Allies about the German fortifications in the town. The German Captain Hauffman is portrayed mainly as a career soldier who never really liked Hitler and his cause. He's a relatively decent fellow because, against his orders, he doesn't do what Hitler instructed him to do. We don't learn the name of Hauffman's French secretary until around half way through the film, but she is a major character in the film. Some comic relief is brought into the film via the cabaret owner, who is a conniver, but not a brave one at all.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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