Sunday, March 24, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Assignment in Brittany (1943) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

The World War II espionage film ASSIGNMENT IN BRITTANY (1943) is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

ASSIGNMENT IN BRITTANY is one of a couple films released by MGM in 1943 based on novels by Helen MacInnes. A MacInnes novel was also the basis for the Joan Crawford-Fred MacMurray film ABOVE SUSPICION (1943), also available from the Warner Archive. ABOVE SUSPICION and ASSIGNMENT IN BRITTANY were the author's first two books; it would be over two decades before another of her works was filmed.

ASSIGNMENT IN BRITTANY features the U.S. film debuts of both Jean-Pierre Aumont (billed Pierre Aumont) and Signe Hasso. Aumont plays Pierre Metard, a spy for the Free French, who looks exactly like Bertrand Corlay, a Frenchman in a British hospital. After some touch-up plastic surgery to ensure Pierre looks like Bertrand in every detail, Pierre is sent to France to impersonate Bertrand and obtain critical information about a port.

Unfortunately it's not known in advance that Bertrand, a Nazi collaborator, had a mistress named Elise (Hasso), which forces Pierre to do some quick thinking on his feet. In fact, when Bertrand "returns," his sweet fiancee, Anne (Susan Peters), has become so disgusted with him that she tells him she wants to break their engagement. Yet as she gets to know this new "Bertrand" better she's confused by her warm feelings toward him... As for Bertrand's mother (Margaret Wycherly), let's just say she's no one's fool, and a brave lady.

The plot is far-fetched but the cast does a good job putting it over in believable fashion. The movie is relatively tough for an MGM film, with some disturbing violence; a scene where Resistance fighters, including a child, are executed is quite upsetting. That said, these moments are accomplished without gore.

There's a wonderfully suspenseful sequence in which Pierre is rescued from prison and hidden during a church service, and the film builds to an exciting and rewarding conclusion.

Aumont is excellent as a man capable of killing without blinking, yet he can turn on a dime and gently romance the sweet Anne. Scenes where they dream of marrying and later must part as he leaves on a mission are quite lovely. I love Peters, who always seemed lit from within when she appeared on screen.

The movie also stars George Coulouris, Darryl Hickman (who turns 88 this summer), Richard Whorf, Reginald Owen, and Juanita Quigley.

ASSIGNMENT IN BRITTANY runs 96 minutes. It was directed by Jack Conway and filmed by Charles Rosher. The screenplay was written by the trio of Anthony Veiller, William H. Wright, and Howard Emmett Rogers.

I previously reviewed this film after seeing it on TCM in 2013.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print.The soundtrack perhaps could have been a bit crisper, as the many accented voices tend to become a bit muddled at times, but on the whole it's acceptable. The disc includes the trailer.

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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