Roll Out the Barrel

Michael Redgrave in The Captive Heart (1946)

For 220 miles British prisoners of war are marched across Europe till they reached their destination a prisoner of war camp in Germany. Amongst them are friends from before the war Corporal Ted Horsfall (Jack Warner) and Private Dai Evans (Mervyn Johns - The Vicious Circle), Lieutenant David Lennox (Gordon Jackson - San Demetrio London) who due to injury is going blind and Captain Geoffrey Mitchell (Michael Redgrave - The Way to the Stars). Except Mitchell is not really who he says he is as in truth he is Capt. Karel Hasek a Czech soldier who having escaped once from a camp put on the uniform and took the identity of a dead soldier he found. With the men uniting to help each other out they also rally around Hasek when they learn the truth leading to him writing to the real Mitchell's wife Celia (Rachel Kempson) pretending to be her husband. The question is for how long can they keep this pretence up?

To put it simply there are two things going on in "The Captive Heart" starting with what appears a far fetched story of Hasek pretending to be Mitchell. Now to elaborate on what I mentioned in the synopsis; we learn that prior to the war Mitchell and his wife were not getting on and so when she receives the sweet letters from Hasek pretending to be her husband it causes her to fall for him again. Of course this eventually leads to a catch 22 situation when repatriation comes and Hasek ends up heading to England to meet the woman he has been writing and lying to.

Gordon Jackson in The Captive Heart (1946)

But there is another side to "The Captive Heart" as there are various other characters from a young man who was a criminal prior to the war using his skills in the camp to a man who receives devastating news from home about his wife dying during child birth. These stories not only provide depth but they also end up interweaving with the central story of Mitchell. And this is where the movie really comes into its own as we get a glimpse at the British support within the prisoner of war camp as they unite to help each other, keeping each other safe and helping those suffering from injuries such as David Lennox as he struggles with the loss of his sight.

All of which combines to create an effective drama with a surprising touching side and I don't mean just the romance but the companionship of the men in the camp. Much of this down to a stellar British cast as whilst Michael Redgrave is perfectly understated as Hasek he has great support from the likes of Gordon Jackson, Mervyn Jones and Jack Warner.

What this all boils down to is that "The Captive Heart" is a surprisingly touching war movie with not only a decent romantic storyline but an interesting look at life inside a prisoner of war camp.

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