The Eagle has Invaded
When I read the synopsis for "Went the Day Well?" it felt familiar and reminded me of the much later "The Eagle has Landed" with both featuring a story about Germans masquerading as a different force to take over a British village. But whilst "The Eagle has Landed" was an action movie "Went the Day Well?" is a wartime propaganda movie and a surprisingly good one at that. Whilst the focus of it is to portray the Nazi's as the enemy it also does a good job of delivering both warnings and infusing the audience with a never say die attitude. And trust me whilst "Went the Day Well?" is a product of its era and so is dated when it comes to characters and dialogue, it is still surprisingly entertaining.
It's a start of a quiet Saturday in the small village of Bramley End but the peace ends quickly when 3 lorry loads of soldiers arrive with a need to be billeted for 3 days whilst they put radio communications equipment in. The patriotic villagers rally around to offer beds for the men unaware that not only are they assisting Nazi's in disguise but Oliver Wilsford (Leslie Banks) the head of the village's Home guard is in fact a traitor. By Sunday morning things become clearer as the villagers are kept hostage in the church whilst the children are kept hostage at the manor house.
Forgetting for a minute that "Went the Day Well?" was made as a piece of war time propaganda; it has a surprisingly good storyline. There is nothing exactly new about it because what it boils down to is that the villagers try to get a message out to a neighbouring village for help and the men of the village trying to over power the Germans. But it is so well put together with the near misses when it comes to getting messages out through to the action when the men try and over power the guards. All of which ends with a surprisingly good battle which you will know how it will end because we get an introduction at the start of the movie surrounding German names on a grave in the church.
But whilst "Went the Day Well?" works as a piece of entertainment it was also designed as propaganda and it certainly does a good job of displaying the German's as the enemy but also working as a lesson to the British. The lesson comes in the fact we have the trust no one element and that at the slightest suspicion people should react, which is what we see when the vicar's daughter Nora becomes suspicious of the soldiers writing numbers in the continental style. But we also get the re-enforcement that German's are the enemy and for an old movie it is a little surprising as we see a man killed, a woman slapped and a young boy shot. It must have been surprisingly effective when first shown in 1942 not only to re-enforce the hatred but also inspire the public to do their duty in the face of danger.
The only problem with "Went the Day Well?" is that watching it now 60 years 70 years after it was made it is understandably seriously dated when it comes to the acting, characters and dialogue. It is a case that everyone is a character type from the gossiping Mrs. Collins who works the village's switchboard to Mrs. Fraser being the lady of the Manor is bossy and snobbish. And as such there are characters which are now unintentionally comical, but that doesn't really distract from what an impressive movie it is.
What this all boils down to is that "Went the Day Well?" is a surprisingly good war time propaganda movie which is still remarkably entertaining. It manages to mix a dramatic storyline with elements of propaganda from re-enforcing that the German's are the enemy to that everyone must do their duty even when in danger.