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The Silence Under the Sea


Rene Clement start out as the Roberto Rossellini of France — his first feature, the heroic resistance tale, “La bataille du rail,” released in 1946, blends realism and artifice in a way quite close to “Rome Open City,” with which it shared the program at the 1946 Cannes Film Festival — but he ended up closer to George Stevens, as his films became more academic and bloated, and his vivid experience of the war was transformed into the self-consciously poetic “Forbidden Games” and the tedious spectacle of “Paris Is Burning.”

“Les Maudits,” which has been rechristened “The Damned” by the Cohen Film Collection for its first American home video release, comes after the collectivist heroics of “La bataille” (in which the railways workers union, a sponsor of the film, is celebrated as the savoir of France) and the deeply conservative “Le pere tranquille,” which imagined a resistance movement led by a cuddly paterfamilias (Noel-Noel)from a provincial town. Set aboard a U-Boat transporting a cadre of Nazi officers and high-ranking collaborations from Europe to South America, “Les Maudits” forgoes the reassuring heroics of Clement’s first two features as it wrestles with the notion that not every Frenchman fought back with courage against the occupying forces. The film, reviewed here in the New York Times, is a fascinating failure, riven with contradictions and evasions, and for that reason highly expressive of its historical moment. It would make a richly suggestive double bill with Raymond Bernard’s “Un ami viendra ce soir” (“A Friend Will Come Tonight,” also released in 1946), in which the operative metaphor is a madhouse, and the experience of the Occupation is likened to a schizophrenic episode. Doubtless there are countless other films from this fascinating period that readers can propose.

58 comments to The Silence Under the Sea

  • Barry Putterman

    As an addendum to Gregg’s reference of ART TROUBLE, I might add that it includes the first screen appearance of James Stewart. A strange lot those Vitaphone comedy shorts. Beyond the six Fatty Arbuckle films, the “star” comedians include Gribbon and Howard, Gus Shy, Ben Blue and Charles Judels. And Lionel Stander has a supporting role in almost all of the films.

  • mike schlesinger

    Thanks for the kind words. But to be accurate, it’s supposed to be a two-steps-above-Educational indie from 1938. I was very anal about the time-frame, and threw out a lot of ad-libs because they were anachronisms. (At one point, the boys claim that Selznick is looking at them for roles in GONE WITH THE WIND, which would be correct for that year.) And yes, we certainly want to do more; the script for BRIDE OF FINKLESTEIN is completed. If you know any rich, important people, send ’em my way! 🙂

  • Gregg Rickman

    Of course, Mr. Schlesinger, as Porky Pig says to Leon Schlesinger in YOU OUGHTA BE IN PICTURES (1940). But why not 1937 instead? Educational went out of business that year, as did Wheeler & Woolsey, and “(My Dreams Are) Gone With the Wind” was a musical number in THE AWFUL TRUTH. On the other hand, there was an industry-wide campaign proclaiming “1938: Motion Pictures’ Greatest Year,” which sounds like it’s ripe for some ribbing. (Catherine Jurca has just published a book by that very name on the topic of that Hays Office-approved PR campaign, widely considered a fizzle at the time. Now, of course, 1939 is commonly asserted as “Hollywood’s Greatest Year”… we now know of course that it was 1928 instead. Or 1959.)

    Seriously, you’re a hero ’round these parts for your heroic efforts in film preservation and (even more useful) producing and distribution of rareties. Where can I get my copy of “The Scream” featuring Max Davidson?

  • Peter

    Mr. Putterman, if John Simon’s recommendation of “Monsieur Ripois” may put you off, that film was also praised by Pauline Kael and David Thomson. According to Kael, there are two versions, English and French. Is this true? The version I’ve seen is mostly in French. Even the London telephone operator speaks to Ripois in French!

  • Barry Putterman

    Well actually Peter, John Simon, Pauline Kael, David Thomson….quite a parlay there. Yes, there is an English language version. In the UK it was called KNAVE OF HEARTS. In the US it was called LOVERS, HAPPY LOVERS! and later re-issued as LOVER BOY.

    I’m certain that all three of those critics love a number of my favorite films. However, I would never cite any of them in an attempt to convince somebody to see those films.

  • David Cohen

    Just got my Turner Classic Movies schedule for October and LES MAUDITS is on it, airing 2 a.m. on Monday Oct. 7. …. end of the same weekend as the classic double feature of BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA and JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER.

  • alex


    What an Unholy Trinity you have cited !

    May the dispensatory powers of this cite and TCM absolve thee!

  • Robert Garrick

    And that “classic double feature” brings us back to our William Beaudine thread. We’re a long way from “Sparrows,” kids.

    As one of the reviewers on the IMDB said of “Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter”: it “certainly exceeded my minimal expectations.” The Billy the Kid film had Harry Carey, Jr. and John Carradine–and Olive Carey, who had been married to the more senior Harry Carey, who by this time had been dead for twenty years. (She was also Harry Carey, Jr.’s mother.) Her first film was “Olive of the Storm Country” (1914), directed by some guy named Edwin S. Porter and starring Mary Pickford. (Olive Carey, then 18 years old, was third billed.) The film still exists and I imagine Dave has seen it. Olive Carey was also in “Trader Horn” (1931) with her much-older husband. She played the missionary who was killed early-on by natives, and whose lost daughter was “the White Goddess.”

    These were Beaudine’s last two films, both from 1966. He continued to work in television for another couple of years, mostly making “Green Hornet” episodes with Bruce Lee.