Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tonight's Movie: The Iron Curtain (1948)

THE IRON CURTAIN (1948), a spy thriller, reunited Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney, who had previously appeared together in BELLE STARR (1941) and the classic LAURA (1944).

THE IRON CURTAIN portrays the true story of Igor Gouzenko (Andrews) and his wife Anna (Tierney). Gouzenko was a code clerk stationed at the Soviet embassy in Ottawa, Canada, during World War II, who was responsible for transmitting to the USSR Canada's top secret nuclear information, which had been stolen by a ring of Communist spies reaching into the highest levels of the Canadian government.

Gradually Gouzenko comes to believe that the Canadians are not enemies, and he questions his own Communist indoctrination. Desiring a safer world for his infant son, Gouzenko risks everything when he takes some of the nuclear documents -- which, if exposed, would break up the Soviet spy ring -- and attempts to defect with his wife and child, leading to a nail-biting climax.

Just as Andrews had filmed the fact-based film BOOMERANG! (1947) on location in Connecticut, THE IRON CURTAIN was filmed on location in Canada. The movie is told in semi-documentary style, with a staccato-voiced narrator filling in key information and moving the film along. The narrator is Reed Hadley, who also served as the narrator of HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948) and many other films; he was also regularly heard in films as a radio announcer, in addition to many acting roles over a career that spanned nearly 35 years.

Filmed at the dawn of the Cold War, the movie is very much of its era in its vivid depiction of the Communist threat, yet that makes it all the more fascinating. The stakes depicted in the film -- the Soviets gaining the keys to nuclear annihilation -- make clear the enormity of the danger posed by the Communists. Some of the Soviet characters may seem a bit unsubtle or cartoonish by today's standards, yet they are also convincingly disturbing.

As always, Andrews and Tierney provide interesting, sympathetic portrayals. Among the supporting cast, June Havoc is particularly striking as a Soviet comrade. Edna Best, who played the maid in Tierney's great film THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947), plays a kindly neighbor.

This movie was directed by William A. Wellman. It was filmed in black and white and runs 87 minutes.

THE IRON CURTAIN does not appear to have been released on VHS or DVD.

It can be seen on cable on Fox Movie Channel.


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