Edge of Darkness (1943) Errol Flynn Day 3
“LET HIM LOOK TO NORWAY.” So says Winston Churchill over the closing credits of this black and white Warner Brothers WW2 would be propaganda film. Here we are years removed from the second world war and although this film outright attacks the German warfare machine, I found it less of a propaganda film than many other titles of the era.
What I did find is an absolute gem in the Errol Flynn library of films from his prime years on screen while under contract to Jack Warner. Although his is the main character he shares much of the screen time with tough as nails Ann Sheridan and in a magnificent performance the head of the Huston clan, John’s father Walter Huston.
The film is about a fishing village in Norway that has been overtaken by the forces of Germany and that communities attempts at trying to remain peaceful while at the same time organizing an underground resistance led by local fisherman Flynn. As the leader of the invading forces, Helmut Dantine makes for a powerful villain and his scene where he destroys a town elder still carries quite a bit of weight even today. The film has many powerful scenes of the horrors of wars and although we have seen a great many more realistic films over the years, it’s the quality of the characters and how they have been both written and performed that makes us the viewer weep for their on screen sufferings. Flynn of course plays the central hero here but each actor gets their opportunity from Sheridan on down to a gripping scene involving her being molested, Flynn losing his cool and Huston’s peaceful Doctor letting his temper get the best of him. Worthy of note here as well is Ruth Gordon in one of her early roles as Huston’s wife who has a hard time accepting the reality of occupation as well as her son possibly being a traitor. When the resistance finally fights to take the town back we get a rousing on screen battle that must have had audiences standing and cheering when this film was initially released during the war.
There is an amazing list of talent associated with this film from our leading players to those behind the scenes. Judith Anderson does a great job here as does John Beal in supporting roles behind our main characters of which Flynn stands front and center. Looking through the credits you will notice that the director is Lewis Milestone who gave us among many titles, All Quiet on the Western Front. The first rate screenplay was credited to Robert Rossen who would go on to direct some classic films including Body and Soul and the best “Pool Movie” ever, The Hustler. The score is by Warner favorite Franz Waxman and if you look closely you’ll see Montages by Don Siegel.
I can’t help but wonder why this title doesn’t come up in Flynn discussions. It’s that good! Perhaps it’s because it’s more of an ensemble piece where he isn’t a one man fighting force or striking a pose with sword in hand. No matter, highly recommended as a first rate film that holds up quite nicely.