One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942, Powell & Pressburger)

“Do you think that we Hollanders who threw the sea out of our country will let the Germans have it? Better the sea.”

Pressburger’s first producer/director credit after a decade of writing in the movies – including Powell’s 49th Parallel, The Spy In Black and Contraband. Shot by Ronald Neame and edited (as was 49th Parallel) by David Lean. Early on were some wondrous airborne shots of the city below lit up by bombs and anti-aircraft fire – I couldn’t tell if it was stock footage or superior special effects.

A pip of a war thriller, more exciting than 49th Parallel. After a British bomber is shot down over Holland, the soldiers (who all parachuted to safety) have to find their stray comrade, contact the resistance and make their way to the border, nearly getting caught a bunch of times.

Note nazi officer silhouette in the organist’s mirror:

Sure, all the guys have different jobs and hobbies and personalities, but the movie is pretty story-driven, so I didn’t get strong enough individual impressions to tell them all apart and remember who was who – figuring most of this out from IMDB. Older guy George, rear gunner, was the villain in The 39 Steps. I recognized Eric Portman from A Canterbury Tale. Hugh Williams (who later starred in Pressburger’s solo film Twice Upon a Time) was an actor in civilian life, so gets dressed as a woman when they hide out in church with the villagers. Front gunner Bernard Miles was in The Man Who Knew Too Much remake. Pilot Hugh Burden played in Ghost Ship and Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, and Emrys Jones (the stray Bob, a soccer player) appeared in The Small Back Room.

The bailed-out men are found immediately by children who report them to Pamela Brown (I Know Where I’m Going, Tales of Hoffmann). She surprisingly makes them prove their identities to make sure they’re not nazi spies trying to entrap the resistance leaders, then smuggles them (via the costumes and the church) on to priest Peter Ustinov (voice of Prince John) then on to Googie Withers (of Night and the City) who gets them to a boat at great personal risk – in fact, I’m not sure how she gets out alive at the end. Somewhere along the way they come across Bob at a soccer game, natch, and Ustinov squares off against nazi sympathizer Robert Helpmann (Red Shoes, Tales of Hoffmann). During their boat escape, one (George?) is shot, but in the epilogue they’re all alive, well and flying missions again – target: Berlin.

Also watched:
An Airman’s Letter to His Mother (1941, Michael Powell)

…which was exactly that – a letter written to be delivered in case of his death, then delivered when he died. One of those super-patriotic messages, which was published in all the papers and filmed by Powell, I guess in order to reach cinemagoers who don’t read the papers.

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