Sunday, May 20, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Hotel Berlin (1945) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

The World War II drama HOTEL BERLIN (1945), released in the final weeks of the war, was recently released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

HOTEL BERLIN is one of a trio of films starring Faye Emerson released by the Archive in March. The other two movies, reviewed here in recent weeks, were MURDER IN THE BIG HOUSE (1942) and DANGER SIGNAL (1945).

I had high hopes for HOTEL BERLIN, as in addition to Emerson it also stars the very interesting actress Andrea King; the CASABLANCA-ish concept of several desperate people congregated under one roof, looking for ways to survive or escape, sounded intriguing.

Unfortunately the film is a bit of a muddled mess, without clear heroes and with Emerson in a relatively small role; neither Emerson or King, or indeed most of the cast, are sympathetic. Even Helmut Dantine as a member of the German underground on the run from the Nazis is rather cold and doesn't particularly engender emotional investment from the audience.

Emerson plays a hotel employee who will do just about anything for a new pair of shoes, including informing on others to the Nazis, while King is a famous actress who's also the sometime lover of von Dahnwitz (Raymond Massey), an army officer. von Dahnwitz, who was part of a plot to kill Hitler, has just been informed by Baron von Stetten (Henry Daniell) that he's under orders to kill himself, or the Third Reich will do it for him.

Also wandering about the hotel are Peter Lorre, George Coulouris, Alan Hale (Sr.), Helene Thimig, Steven Geray, Kurt Krueger, and Peter Whitney.

The movie begins abruptly with a chase through the hotel, and the script initially provides little for the viewer to latch on to in terms of being able to follow a story, other than the need for Richter (Dantine), the escapee, to hide. The film's attention is scattered among several characters but, as mentioned, they don't command much sympathy or interest. Being interested in the careers of both Emerson and King, I'm glad I can check off seeing it from their filmographies, but that's about it.

Of historical note, at the end of the film's 98 minutes, is a note from Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin about the Allied goals, which were not to do away with the German people but to eradicate the Nazis and their war-making ability.

HOTEL BERLIN was directed by Peter Godfrey and Carl Guthrie. There are some oddball shots here and there, such as Massey filmed through the bottom of a brandy snifter, that seem out of keeping with the story. The score, which I found overly bombastic at times, was by Franz Waxman.

The print is mostly okay but there are a couple slightly abrupt scene jumps and a few scenes which are darker or have flaws.

The trailer is included on the disc.

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 or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


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