Shortly before the start of WW2, renown British big-game hunter Thorndike vacationing in Bavaria has Hitler in his gun sight. He is captured, beaten, left for dead, and escapes back to London where he is hounded by Nazi agents and aided by a young woman.
Very good movie overall, highly recommended. Most of the negative reviews don't have any merit and are all pollitically based. Give this movie a chance at least, and it might give you a different perspective.
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Story: It's very simple but honestly that is fine.
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Fritz Lang made a riveting movie, here, which could be viewed on several levels. It starts with a world-famous British big-game hunter, Capt. Alan Thorndike (Walter Pidgeon), on vacation in Bavaria in 1939. Since his thrill is the stalk sport more than the kill, he stalks Hitler to his hideout and puts him in his gun site without trying to kill him. He then loads his gun with his finger ready to squeeze the trigger. But he is overtaken by Hitler's guards and brought to the headquarters of the Nazi Gestapo leader, Major Quive-Smith (George Sanders). Quive-Smith is also an avid hunter and speaks perfect English. When Thorndike is told to sign a letter as an English agent assigned to kill Hitler, he refuses and is tortured. After torture, he still refuses to sign the letter, so Quive-Smith decides to kill him by staging an accident: having him fall from a steep, deep cliff. But, Thorndike survives the fall and manages to become a stowaway--with the help of the cabin boy (played by Roddy McDowall)--on a Dutch ship bound for England. He is constantly chased, hidden, and hunted throughout the movie--first by Nazi spies, then by London police. It really doesn't matter if this movie was made as a propaganda film or not. It totally captivated me and held me in my seat to until the very end.Of interest to me is that this movie was released in the USA on 20 June 1941. Pearl Harbor was not attacked until 7 December 1941. So, at the time this movie was released in the US, the US had not officially entered the war.
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Captain Alan Thorndike (Walter Pidgeon) is captured by the Nazis after having been caught aiming a rifle at Adolf Hitler. He insists that he wasn't consciously making an assassination attempt, that he was merely a hunter relishing the prospect of taking down "big game". They naturally don't believe him, and try to make him a sign a "confession" that he was acting on behalf of his government. He refuses to sign his name to a lie, and they proceed to torture him and set him up for execution, but he escapes. Soon he makes it back to London, but they continue to pursue him on his home turf. Fortunately, he receives the help of a street waif, Jerry Stokes (Joan Bennett), who quickly overcomes her distrust and becomes quite taken with him. He tries not to put her in harms' way while evading sinister Nazi officials such as the well-spoken Major Quive-Smith (George Sanders).Fritz Langs' wartime film, based on the story by Geoffrey Household, may not suit all tastes because it doesn't actually have a sense of urgency, at least not all the time. It even gets lighthearted and romantic at times, as Alan and Jerry start hitting it off. There still are some wonderfully moody moments, such as Alan managing to sneak onto a ship (where a precocious lad, well played by a very young Roddy McDowall, helps to hide him), and the sequence where a Gestapo thug portrayed by an effectively creepy John Carradine tails Alan into a subway tunnel. You do worry for the safety of Alan, especially when the odds are so stacked against him. Pidgeon does indeed have an interesting "devil may care" quality to him at times, and he and the lovely Bennett do have nice chemistry. Ms. Bennett is appealing playing a "common" type of gal who relishes in the comfort of a mansion at one point. Sanders is excellent, delivering just the right amount of quiet, refined menace.Langs' direction keeps you riveted, especially in the opening few minutes where very little dialogue is spoken. The material may strike some viewers as far-fetched, but in his hands it makes for stylish entertainment.Eight out of 10.
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The movie had all the elements which could have made it one of the greatest thriller of all time. Daring assassination attempt which could lead a continent into a war, thrilling escapades, cunning secret service agents following the trails of the wanted. Lang with his natural brilliance in this genre captivates the audience from the very first scene itself. However, unfortunately the taut suspense that the movie builds slacks through the introduction of the romantic angle in the movie. The romantic interludes slows the pace and acts as a dampener. If the screenplay could have pared these excesses of romantic interludes or could have integrated the same in a better way with the main narration of the film, this film could have become, as I said in the beginning, one of the greatest thrillers of all time.
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Man Hunt (1941) *** (out of 4) Entertaining but severely flawed thriller about big-game hunter Alan Thorndike (Walter Pidgeon) who crosses over to Germany and hunts down Hitler. He has the evil man in his rifle range but when he pulls the trigger it's a blank. He's eventually captured and beaten but he swears that he had no intent on actually killing the man. He manages to escape but Major Quive Smith (George Sanders) is soon on his trail as is a hired killer (John Carradine). It's important to remember that at the time of this film's release American had yet to join WW2 so there's a lot of talk here, which is clearly meant to build up spirits for when our country did join. The ending is certainly preaching but this isn't the downside of the film. The real downside happens when Thorndike meets a young woman (Joan Bennett) who insists on following him on his journey. Up until this point the film has some nice tension building up and after her character is out of the way we get back to that tension but I must say that this added romance was downright bad and really kept this film from being much better. The biggest problem I had is that I could never make heads or tails of why it was included in the first place. There's really no "love" story being told and there's really no point in having her along for the ride as it appears the main reason she's here is for comedy relief and there aren't any laughs. Her character is so annoying that you can't help but wish she'd just go away and why she was given such a big part in the story is beyond me. Outside of that we're left with a pretty good thriller with some excellent performances and tight direction. Pidgeon is perfect as the hero who refuses to sell out his country to save his own life. I thought the character went through quite a few changes in the film and the actor perfectly handled the material. Sanders easily steals the film as the evil SOB tracking him down and you can't help but feel as if you're hearing someone who really was behind the evil wishes of Hitler. Sanders is so cold and stern in the part that you can't help but love to hate him. Carradine offers up his typical fine performance and we get Roddy McDowall, Frederick Worlock and Roger Imhof in nice supporting bits. Bennett didn't work for me but this had more to do with the screenplay and not her performance. The final moments take place inside a cave and makes for some wonderful tension but I won't ruin what happens. MAN HUNT is certainly worth watching due to the cast and Lang's direction but I can't help but feel a little disappointed that it's not better. Had the film stayed focused on the tension and left the romance somewhere else then we'd have had a much better film.