Edge of Darkness (1943)
A Milestone War Movie
Every battle must have its dead - Gunnar
There was a war going on and I am not just talking about the story depicted in 1940s war movie "Edge of Darkness". Nope I am on about the trouble behind the scenes and in many ways it is a marvel the movie was not only completed but ended up so good. Bad weather delayed production causing it to over run, actresses were being ordered back to New York to keep prior commitments, actress Ann Sheridan split from her husband and the star of the movie Errol Flynn was indicted for rape. So as you can see there was a battle behind the scenes let alone the one dramatized in the movie.
But the behind the scenes are just part of the reason why "Edge of Darkness" is in many ways fascinating another is both the visual brutality shown but also suggested brutality as we witness an important female character show up to a meeting, her face dirty, her clothes ripped and it doesn't take much to realise that it is suggested that a German raped her. It does take you back even now over 60 years since "Edge of Darkness" was made and that is again just part of the reason why this war movie still has such an impact.
It all starts with the storyline as we enter the Norwegian fishing town of Trollness and we see dead bodies strewn everywhere, Germans and Norwegian bodies cover the street as some sort of massacre has taken place. We then go back to before the massacre as we come to learn that the 800 strong town is under German control with Captain Koenig (Helmut Dantine) in charge of 150 soldiers who keep the locals in check, dishing out violence as need be. But we also meet Norwegian fisherman Gunnar Brogge (Errol Flynn - Santa Fe Trail) who after two years of having to put up with the German's is growing restless and wanting to sail to England to help the fight. He is not alone as many of the people also want to fight and when they learn they can get weapons from the English to stage a revolt they decide to stand together, they just need to bide their time till the moment is right and hope no one lets slip to the German's what they are up to.
I don't know whether "Edge of Darkness" is based on a true story but it certainly has that feel, that feel of Hollywood taking something real and then adding a bit of Hollywood drama to it. That is not a criticism because it works and we slowly get a real picture of life in this fishing town where some locals are tired of fighting, others whilst opposed to the German's don't want to risk their lives and also those who have betrayed their country by working for the Germans. It means that whilst we may have this storyline about Gunnar and a small group of other fighters secretly preparing to attack and get weapons the drama of town life where people are hit and mocked by the Germans feels very real.
In fact "Edge of Darkness" is one of the more brutal war movies I have seen when you think it was made in the 1940s. Various scenes where locals are hit, humiliated and in one case tied up and marched in front of the entire town whilst his possessions are burnt really hit home as does the unity amongst the village as they have to witness this, the hatred building in each and everyone of them. And then there is the suggested rape scene, a magnificent dramatic scene full of anger and atmosphere which takes you aback because whilst you don't see anything it certainly doesn't make it ambiguous to what it is saying.
Now as already mentioned the movie opens in the aftermath of a massacre in the town and so everything we watch builds up to that massacre and what a series of action scenes it is. Even before the actual fighting starts and we see the Germans forcing a group of people to dig their own graves ready for execution is hard hitting. But then we get the fight a brutal series of action where people are mowed down, blown up and the Norwegians sacrifice themselves for the greater good as they relentlessly charge against the firing Germans. It is stunning and in many ways is superior to action sequences in modern war movies because it has atmosphere, you can feel the passion of the Norwegians to fight the Germans to take back control of their town.
What this all boils down to is that "Edge of Darkness" is still a remarkable and hard hitting war movie which gets across not only the viciousness of war but also the sacrifices of those who lay down their lives.
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