Sunday, January 03, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Hitler's Children (1943) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Tim Holt and Bonita Granville star in the engrossing WWII propaganda film HITLER'S CHILDREN (1943), just released by the Warner Archive.

Anna Muller (Granville) and Karl Bruner (Holt) first meet in Germany as teenagers. Anna, an American citizen with grandparents in Germany, attends the American Colony School for expatriate children run by Professor Nichols (Kent Smith of CAT PEOPLE), while Karl is being indoctrinated into Naziism at the school next door.

Anna and Karl like each other but lose touch as they mature. 20-year-old Anna becomes Professor Nichols' assistant at the school, while Karl joins the army.

One day soldiers show up at the American school to remove Polish and Jewish students. They also take away Anna, whose U.S. citizenship is declared null and void because she was born in Germany to German parents, who only later became U.S. citizens.

Anna is not happy about her new German "citizenship" and is sent to a labor camp, where she eventually becomes quite the political rabble-rouser. Since the uncooperative Anna is obviously not going to bear obedient little Nazi children, she is scheduled for sterilization by the government.

Karl, who has crossed paths with Anna again and loves her, tries to help her by convincing her to have a baby for the state with him, but Anna refuses. Anna escapes but is caught, and Karl ends up in trouble as well when he prevents Anna from being whipped as an example to others. Professor Nichols must stand by helplessly as the two young people suffer, but he is encouraged by a German reporter friend (Lloyd Corrigan) to flee Germany and tell the world what is happening there.

Admittedly this isn't a very cheery film to start off a new year of movie viewing, but I was drawn to see it by the stars. Holt and Granville are each very good in their roles, with Holt's last scene particularly fine. He was quite a good actor, with his rigid young Nazi being worlds away from either his spoiled George in THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1941) or the genial cowboy he played in so many RKO Westerns. The moments where love leads to cracks in his Nazi facade are quite moving. The spirited Granville was perfectly cast as a young woman who refuses to "go along to get along."

Due to the subject matter, this isn't a movie with what I call "rewatch value," but it's a worthwhile film in terms of both its depiction of wartime horrors and for the performances of the lead actors. Kudos to the Warner Archive for making it available, as it's an interesting piece of cinematic and WWII history.

The film might have been propaganda intended to help encourage U.S. citizens in the fight against the Nazis in the darkest days of the war, but given things we know now about the horrors inflicted on so many by the Nazi regime, it doesn't seem exaggerated in the least; if anything it underplays the horror, or we wouldn't be able to stand watching it.

The supporting cast includes Otto Kruger, H.B. Warner, and Hans Conreid. Look for a teenaged Nancy Gates as one of the American students in the early scenes.

HITLER'S CHILDREN was directed by Edward Dmytryk, who replaced the original director, Irving Reis. It was filmed in black and white by Russell Metty. The movie runs 82 minutes.

HITLER'S CHILDREN is a good print. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger Jerry E said...

It's been quite a while since I saw 'Hitler's Children' and it's great that WA have made it available. Must make sure I get a copy soon. We share our great liking for Tim Holt and the film is graced with a fine cast generally. As you so rightly say, this might have seemed far-fetched to 1943 audiences but we now know just how under-stated it actually was.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

The hubby and I came across this unexpectedly a couple of years ago and I think we expected over-the-top propaganda, but instead found ourselves totally engrossed and quite moved. Bonita Granville and Tim Holt touched our hearts.

6:53 AM  
Blogger Clayton said...

Thank God for the Warner archives, wot? So much to get, and though I wish they were pressed discs, beggars can't be choosers! :) I'll have to check this out; it sounds just my kind of thing.

Clayton @ Phantom Empires

8:08 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

So glad to hear of others who know this compelling film and to get your feedback, Jerry and Caftan Woman. I was just a bit apprehensive about watching it, due to the subject matter, but Tim and Bonita were so good, it was really worthwhile and interesting. Clayton, I think you might like this one -- if you are able to see it please share your thoughts.

Best wishes,

11:26 AM  
Blogger Clayton said...

Too funny. I was looking for this film on Youtube, and I found a chilling little picture called HITLER'S MADMAN, from the same year, starring John Carradine. Totally worth the watch! I'll hunt down you suggestion post haste!

Clayton @ Phantom Empires

5:09 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Clay! HITLER'S MADMAN was released by the Warner Archive at the same time as HITLER'S CHILDREN, and I'll be reviewing it soon as well! I was intrigued as it stars Patricia Morison, who was my most-watched actress of 2015. It's apparently loosely based on a true story, which was also the inspiration for Fritz Lang's HANGMEN ALSO DIE! (1943).

Thanks for sharing the tip and your impressions of it with everyone here!

Best wishes,

5:31 PM  
Blogger Clayton said...

Of course! I love your blog; whenever I get any time to go blog cruising, yours is one I make sure not to miss.

6:19 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's very kind of you to say, Clayton! (Please forgive the typo on your name in the previous comment!) It's always wonderful to know my blog is enjoyed. :) :)

Best wishes,

6:55 PM  

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