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49th Parallel

(1941 b 122')

En: 7 Ed: 7

Directed by Michael Powell and nominated for best picture, during World War II six Germans from a submarine try to survive in Canada.

         In the Gulf of St. Lawrence east of Canada men on a German submarine watch a Canadian ship sink. A defense installation in Halifax issues a warning, and several planes take off and accompany ships. At sea the Germans on the submarine question the survivors who are seeking refuge. The captain says they were carrying crude oil. He hits the German and is knocked into the sea.

         The German submarine tries to find a place to hide among icebergs. The captain decides to surface to protect the ship. A coastal installation reports the location of the German sub.

In the morning the German Commandant Bernsdorff sends out men on the coast of Canada to find food. Six Germans with rifles go on the land under Lt. Kuhnecker (Raymond Lovell). Planes attack the submarine with bombs, destroying it as the six men on land watch.

         The trapper Johnnie (Laurence Olivier) and his servant Eskimo Nick arrive at a settlement, and Johnnie shaves off his beard after months of trapping. They talk by radio to Winnipeg. From a mountain the six Germans see the settlement. Johnnie learns from the Factor (Finlay  Currie) that the war against Germany has started after the Germans invaded Poland. He does not want French Canada to fight in the war. The Factor hears the dogs and opens a curtain. The Germans come in with guns and take control. Nick is also captured, resists, and is killed. Lt. Kuhnecker questions the Factor and lays out a map. A radio message is trying to contact the Factor, but they do not answer. The Factor says his friend will report he did not respond. Johnnie makes fun of the Nazi salute and marching. The engineer persuades Kuhnecker to let them play chess by radio. Johnnie refuses to guide them to the railroad and says they will never make it without being caught. Lt. Hirth (Eric Portman) tells him that the French surrendered, and he says Johnnie will be free under the Germans as an oppressed people. He shows Johnnie Hitler’s book. Johnnie says the French are always free to speak as they please. On the radio the man’s wife reads them the report of the German sub that was sunk. The Germans prevent the Factor from replying and tie him up.

         The German engineer repairs the radio and learns of an emergency plane. The engineer persuades Hirth they must wear other clothes rather than their uniforms. A plane lands on the water, and the Eskimos welcome them, saying their son with Johnnie did not come back. The Germans warn the two Canadians not to resist, but they run and are killed. Inside Johnnie is dying on the bed and wants his rosary.

         The six Germans try to take off in the plane, but they are overloaded. They dump cargo but still cannot take off. On the beach an Eskimo with a rifle shoots Lt. Kuhnecker. This time the plane gets off the water. Lt. Hirth has taken command and asks the engineer if they have enough gas and tells him where they can go to catch the railway. The plane sputters, and the engineer switches over to the emergency tank. They run out of gas, and they crash on the water. One man is injured and is helped by two others. They realize he died.

         The four Germans see a woman fixing a scarecrow on a farm. Hirth sees she has a German newspaper. Hirth sends Vogel (Niall MacGinnis) to talk with Anna (Glynis Johns) who is sixteen. The others join them, and Vogel says they are looking for work. She tells them about their settlement of Hutterites.

         A large room is filled with people, and Anna serves them bread. Vogel learns that none of them are paid for their work. They are Christians and do not punish those who leave and return. Their leader Peter (Anton Walbrook) asks if they are Germans, and Hirth says yes. Peter shows them a house where they can sleep. Anna is making the beds. Anna says she sleeps in Peter’s house with his mother. She says they were in England before they came to Canada.

         The four Germans discuss their strategy and salute Hitler before going to bed. Vogel tells Hirth he regrets their killing Eskimos. Hirth says they are at war and quotes Bismarck.

         In the morning Hirth wakes the other two to go look for Vogel who is found working with the baker. Vogel impresses people with the bread he baked. Peter comes in with Hirth who commends Vogel.

         The Germans work in the field harvesting wheat. Peter asks Andreas for the news from Winnipeg. Andreas says Germans are on the loose.

         At a meeting Hirth says they have only one choice to support the German people with a new order for the whole world. He calls them brothers and says they will share in their prosperity and the supremacy of the Nordic people under their leader Hitler. The four salute, but the others are silent. Peter says they have a false impression of them. He says they left Europe because of their faith, and they have found security, peace, and understanding that Hitler stamped out in Europe. Peter says they are Germans but not their brothers. Their children are free without being forced to march in uniforms. Peter says they do not hate them but what is trying to take over the world like microbes.

         Anna tells Hirth she will not make their beds and calls them Nazis. She says she hates them because they killed her father and mother. She wants to report them to the police. Vogel says he will take her home and leaves.

         Vogel and Anna go to her home. Vogel tells Peter he likes it there, but they are leaving now. Peter asks him not to go. He asks Vogel how he got mixed up with such people. Vogel says a boy likes to play soldier. Peter invites him to stay with them.

         Vogel is baking a cake for Anna, and the other Germans arrest him. Hirth sentences him to death and has him shot.

         The three Germans walk on a road to Winnipeg. In the city they see food. They sell their field glasses and buy a meal. Hirth tells them they will go to Vancouver and then go home.

         They walk on roads west through open country. They come across a man fixing a tire on his car that is filled with packages and help him change the tire. One of them knocks out the man with a wrench.

         Hirth on a Canadian Pacific train is wearing a suit and tie. At a stop they see an Indian tribe. A Mounty searches for the three Germans on the train, and he announces it to the crowd and gives their descriptions. Kranz (Peter Moore) panics and is caught. The other two escape in the woods.

         Hirth and Lohrmann (John Chandos) hike in the mountains and find an Indian village by a lake. Philip Armstrong Scott (Leslie Howard) is fishing in a canoe and warns them about the grizzly bears. He invites them to have dinner with them. Philip takes them across the lake in the canoe. He says he is working on a book about the Indians. He welcomes them to his tepee and shows them his paintings by Picasso and Matisse. He shows them a German edition of The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann.

         The two Germans take a shower from buckets. The Indian George assists Philip. In the tent by a fire Philip lectures them about the Blackfeet tribe and the Nazis. Hirth is offended and walks out. Philip offers him a nightcap, and they drink. Hirth accuses Philip of escaping the war and calls him a coward. Philip says they have reasoning powers. Lohrmann picks up a revolver and points it at Philip. Hirth says the war is right there in his tent. Philip realizes they are Nazis. They tie him up and take $33 from his pocket. The German finds a rifle and destroys the paintings, and they burn the book by Mann and Philip’s manuscript. Philip says they are behaving like “spiteful schoolboys,” and Hirth gags him. A horse runs away, and others are aroused. Lohrmann quarrels with Hirth and knocks him down. George and two men find Philip, and they search for the Germans. Philip walks directly toward Lohrmann as he shoots at him. On the last shot he is wounded. He limps into the cave and fights Lohrmann. Philip comes out of the cave and tells the others to fetch him.

         Germans report about the remaining Lt. Hirth as a hero. Hirth gets on a train in a boxcar and meets Andy Brock (Raymond Massey) who shares a bottle of wine with him. Andy says he does not want to meet the police because he has stayed away longer than his leave. Hirth accuses him of deserting his military post. Hirth knocks him out and steals his uniform. Andy comes to, and Hirth holds a gun on him while conductors seal up their car. Andy says they are crossing the border into the United States. The train is crossing a bridge over great falls. Andy tells him they can complain in a democracy. Two customs inspectors discover them, and Andy says who he is. Hirth says he is a German citizen and asks to be taken to his consul. Andy tells him they must send him back. Andy says he is not on the manifest, and the customs officer decides to send them back as freight not listed. They took the gun and leave them on the train that goes back. Andy challenges Hirth to a fight to get his pants back.

         This wartime drama portrays Nazi soldiers out of place in Canadian society, contrasting their militaristic values to the Christian Hutterites and others in Canada who are otherwise untouched by the war.

Copyright © 2011 by Sanderson Beck

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