Appointment With Venus (1951) aka Island Rescue
While the central point of this British film’s plot may seem trivial, there’s an undeniable charm mixed into this minor tale of WW2. No doubt leading players David Niven and Glynis Johns should receive much of the credit in accomplishing this.
Our story begins as a small British Isle is overtaken by the German war machine led by commanding officer George Coulouris. For plot purposes he tells the island’s elder that his men will speak only English to abort any confusion in the rules and curfews he lays down. Back home in London, the British are putting into place a rescue operation for a rather odd prize. A cow named Venus with a blood line as noble as the King’s. Topping it off is the fact that the cow is pregnant after mating with a champion bull. The nation’s pride is at stake.
Actor Bernard Lee once again essays an officer’s role giving out commands. This time they are pointed directly at David Niven. Niven’s job will be to gather a small force and liberate Venus from the clutches of Nazi tyranny. Needing a detailed description of the isle, he turns to a young woman who was born there but is now working on the mainland, Glynis Johns. Perhaps she could join the mission, rescue the cow and fall madly in love with our dashing young officer Niven? Why would I want to spoil anything in this lighthearted adventure tale.
Complications will rear their head when it turns out that Commander Coulouris actually kept cows in Germany and once he discovers Venus is on the isle, he plans to ship her back to Germany. In essence our cow has become a prized trophy, much like the artworks and treasures the German’s “confiscated” from other countries they overtook during the war.
Niven and Johns will enlist certain members of the isle in their attempts to hide the cow and ship her back to the mainland. Included in the group is Kenneth More who’s conscientious objector may play a greater part then we might have suspected at the film’s beginning. More does a nice job with the role of a man who won’t be swayed from his ideals and has little use for the games of war that men are playing.
Roles like that of the dashing man in uniform are made for an actor like David Niven. He has always seemed right at home when involved in tales of espionage and dodging German soldiers in the dawn morning light. All with that carefree attitude that he so excelled at. The early fifties proved to be somewhat of a downward turn in Niven’s career but by 1956 he’d be starring as Phileas Fogg and an Oscar would be handed to him for 58’s Separate Tables. From there he would never really fall out of favor in the film world.
Glynis Johns always seems to captivate me and no doubt it’s due to her soothing, needy yet seductive voice. It’s matched with a girl next door look that draws me in to many of her roles. She’s perfectly cast here as the island girl who is sure to capture Niven’s heart along with Venus the cow.
If anyone out there is keeping score, listen closely and you’ll hear someone utter the words “only a flesh wound,” when getting tagged with a stray bullet during the adventurous rescue operation at the film’s climax.
Venus was directed by Ralph Thomas. Way down the crew list was the name Gerald Thomas. That name jumped out at me. It turns out they were brothers. Gerald would go on to direct the entire series of Carry On films. I still get a kick out of those and just might have to feature some here soon.