Women in the Night (1948)

vt When Men Are Beasts; vt Curse of a Teenage Nazi; vt Captured
US / 92 minutes / bw / Ansell, Film Classics, Republic Dir & Story: William Rowland Pr: Louis K. Ansell Scr: Maude Emily Glass, Ali M. Ipar, Robert St. Clair, Edwin V. Westrate, Arthur Jones, Louis K. Ansell Cine: Eugen Shuftan, Jose Ortiz Ramos Cast: Tala Birell, William Henry, Richard Loo, Virginia Christine, Bernadine Hayes (i.e., Bernadene Hayes), Gordon Richards, Frances Chung, Jean Brooks, Kathy Frye, Helen Mowery, Benson Fong, Helen Brown, Frederick Giermann, Phillip Ahn, Arno Frey, Beal Wong, Iris Flores, Frederic Brunn, Harry Hays Morgan, Paula Allen, Joy Gwynell, William Yetter Sr., Noel Cravat, Paul Ander.

How could your humble correspondent resist a movie that has the variant title Curse of a Teenage Nazi?

Germany has already lost the war in Europe, but the Pacific war rages on. In Shanghai, the German army maintains its officers’ club—complete with white crosses on the roof to deceived Allied bombers—as well as its hopes that the Reich might yet emerge triumphant, thanks to a secret weapon called (I’m going to get this over with early) the Cosmic Ray.

Virginia Christine as Claire Adams and Frances Chung as Li Ling.

(Look, aside from the idiotic naming of the Sekrit Wepping, this is quite a nifty little movie, all right?)

Obviously, given the situation, the Germans have to keep the Japanese sweet, so Colonel Von Meyer (Richards), the top local Nazi, promises Japanese security chief Colonel Noyama (Loo) that the Germans will let their Japanese allies in on the secrets of the Cosmic Ray, and sets up an appointment for top boffin Professor Kunioshi (Ahn) to come look at the blueprints.

Noyama: “You forget, my dear colonel, there is no more Germany.”
Von Meyer: “There vill always be a Germany!”

Just to make relations sweeter, Von Meyer plans that a group of attractive female prisoners of war will . . . accommodate the Japanese brass during a grand party thrown to mark the occasion.

Tala Birell as Yvette Aubert.

The movie’s really the story of those prisoners of war and various associated resistance workers—plus OSS infiltrator Philip Adams OSS (Henry), masquerading as Nazi electronics wizard Major Von Arnheim, who just happens to be married to one of them.

Gordon Richards as Colonel Von Meyer.

The POWs include:

  • Yvette Aubert (Birell), a French chanteuse who has worked out that the best way to survive the war is to collaborate with the enemy, or at least seem to do so. For much of the movie she’s held in contempt by all, even including the Nazi dominatrix type put in charge of the women, Frau Thaler (Hayes):

Frau Thaler: “Why, you insolent French . . . volunteer.”

Yet there’s much more to Yvette. She shows sheer guts in one of the movie’s strongest sequences, as she sings “Cherie” to distract the attention of the company while Allied bombs fall all around the building.

  • Claire Adams (Christine), an American who’s in some ways the group’s leader as they scheme of ways in which to thwart the Nazi intention to bring the Cosmic Ray to bear.
  • Li Ling (Chung), a plucky Chinese woman who, with waiter fiancé Chang (Fong), is in contact with the resistance and has set up a plot to blow the building and its hated Nazi occupants—plus as many Japanese as can be managed—to smithereens.

Kathy Frye as Helen James.

Helen Brown as Angela James, Helen’s mom.

  • Helen James (Frye), an Australian teenager and, although obviously it’s never stated in so many words, the only virgin in the bunch; being forced to sleep with the enemy would thus be for her a particularly odious farm of rape. During the movie she discovers that her mother, Angela (Brown), is enslaved as a cleaner in the barracks. The story of Angela—who poisons her daughter to save her and is then executed by firing squad for the crime, offers the movie’s two other strongest sequences.
  • Sheila Hallett (Mowery), an English married woman who’s prepared to sacrifice whatever it takes if it’ll aid the Allied cause.
  • Maya (Brooks), ostensibly one of the POWs but in fact a mole planted by the enemy.

Helen Mowery as Sheila Hallett.

There are quite a few others, the point being made that they are from a diversity of nations acting in concert against the loathed Nazis and their Japanese buddies, but, like the Russian woman Olga, they go uncredited and, aside from her, unnamed and undifferentiated.

Benson Fong as Chang and Bernadene Hayes as Frau Thaler.

The movie does a surprisingly good job of helping us keep all of the characters straight—I’ve mentioned only a fraction of them here (just look at the length of that cast list!)—and in making sure the story keeps barreling along.

Jean Brooks as Maya.

A few years earlier this would have been a propaganda effort, and it retains exactly that feel, as if perhaps it was scripted while the Pacific war was still in progress and the screenplay later adapted on waste-not-want-not principles. It also seems to seek to have its cake and eat it so far as its status as an exploitationer is concerned. The setup obviously has salacious aspects, and doubtless these were stressed in what little publicity this B-feature would have had; yet a four-screen printed prologue stresses its serious intentions as a testament to the bravery and sacrifice Allied women made when captured by the foe, and hopes the movie will make it less likely such crimes will be committed again (a hope sadly unrealized by our world’s warmongers and their facilitators).

Phillip Ahn as Professor Kunioshi (left) and Richard Loo as Colonel Noyama.

William Henry as Major Von Arnheim.

The cheapness of the production is obvious, but the actors are generally good, especially the women whose story this purports to be. The cheapness can be gauged from a line in the credits:

Filmed at the luxurious Playa–Ensenada Hotel, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.

Worth at the very least a whopping discount at the bar, that line must have been.

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7 thoughts on “Women in the Night (1948)

  1. Yikes! I’ve actually seen this film. It’s definitely sexploitation with a small s served with ample cheese. It has a touch or two of pathos, but mostly it’s groanworthy. I want to enjoy it as camp, but it wasn’t over the top enough. Still, worth a gander to gawk at. Thanks for the memories!

    • Ha! Obviously I found more to like about it than you did. The scene where Yvette sings “Cherie” as the bombs fall really stands out for me. Basically, I think, it’s the males who make it cheesy; the female cast come out of this with some credit, I’d say.

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