Decision Before Dawn

I wanted to avoid going outside during the hot day, so I stayed in the air-conditioned office and tried to get some work done.  I stopped to watch “Decision Before Dawn,” a war movie from 1951.  The stars were Oskar Werner and Richard Basehart.  It took place in the last days of World War II.  Germans are recruited for a spy mission.  The story recalled such movies as “The Guns of Navarone,” “Go for Broke,” “The Dirty Dozen,” and “The Pianist.”  Klaus Kinski shows up near the beginning of the film as one of the interviewees.  This was an early movie that showed a German soldier with some humanity or decency.  I thought that Werner gave a good performance.  I really only remember him from “Jules and Jim,” “Ship of Fools,” and “Fahrenheit 451.”  He is supposed to learn about the location of the 11th Panzer Corps and report back within five days.  He was known as Happy, and he made mistakes, like showing how much money he had.  I kept thinking about how dangerous it was to parachute down from a plane no matter the circumstances were.  I thought someone would discover the buried parachute, and there would be a manhunt for him.  I thought there was a good amount of suspense in the picture, and I didn’t know how it was going to end, although I thought it wasn’t going to be one of those nice, happy endings.  If Happy was going to succeed, it would be through some luck, because he wasn’t the smartest person.  I would say that a flaw in the script is that the Allies are about to win the war, so this whole mission doesn’t seem important, except for some symbolism.  If you thought that they would be a key moment when someone would come close to turning in Happy and the others, you would be correct.  There is also a woman who helps out, which reminded me a bit of “Grand Illusion.”  I thought it would be hard to escape the Germans with rifles if you had to swim away from them.  I thought about how terrifying it would be to have an entire country full of Nazis pursuing you to catch you and execute you.  There are many other World War II movies that I would rather see than this one, but “Decision Before Dawn” did give us something a little different.  The director was Anatole Litvak, whose work included “Sorry, Wrong Number,” “The Snake Pit,” and “Anastasia.”  He died in 1974 at age 72.  Richard Basehart appeared in the classic Fellini film “La Strada” and the television series “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.”  He was also in John Huston’s “Moby Dick” and Hal Ashby’s “Being There.” He died in 1984 at age 70.  Some of the people who died on May 4 include Moe Howard (1975), Diana Dors (1984), Dom DeLuise (2009), and Adam Yauch (2012). Today is a birthday for Erin Andrews (39), Will Arnett (47), Randy Travis (68), and Jackie Jackson (66).

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