Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – Enemy of Women (1944)

My notes on Enemy of Women (1944)

This is one of a tiny sub-genre of Nazi Bastard Biopics (cf: Hitler’s Madman, The Hitler Gang) made during the War – and is especially hung up in a logical quandary as it condemns Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels (Paul Andor) for being a lying propagandist while essentially making up nasty stories about him as if there weren’t enough real dirt worth dishing.  There’s a 1944 frame story with Goebbels pulled out of a broadcast bragging that Allied air raids have no effect to discover that a woman has died in the devastation, then flashing back to his early days as a gurning failed playwright forced to work as a tutor.  He’s thrown out of a respectable house for making advances to would-be actress Maria Brandt (Claudia Drake).  Depressed, he goes to a beer-hall and sees Hitler (unbilled, in long shot) deliver a speech which inspires him to join the Nazi party.

This is a low-budget picture without funds to go over that old rise-of-Nazism business, but in an inventive, weird touch a medium (Lester Dorr) at a party hypnotises a woman who foresees the burning of the Reichstag, the fall of France (the happiest day in Goebbels’ life) and Rommel’s Africa campaign.  In blackout sketches, democracy is suspended and honest newspapers are shut down by thugs – perennial weasel Byron Foulger has a good bit as a former servant who arrests his old boss, a newspaper proprietor, and taps his holster when asked to produce a wallet – while Goebbels takes over all the media in Germany.  However, like this Goebbels, the film is still more hung up on Maria.  Goebbels has her father (HB Warner), who once manhandled him, gunned down as an enemy of state and then tells the girl it was Himmler’s fault while pulling strings to get her a screen test and star roles at Ufa (the film company’s logo is actually used) though the ungrateful chit still won’t put out and, after her career has been scuppered, marries a dashing Austrian doctor (Donald Woods) who brings a couple of reels’ worth of wooden romance to the film (Drake, however, is unaffected and rather good).

While he ought to be more interested in organising Nuremberg rallies or whipping up anti-semitism (neither mentioned in the script), Goebbels is still plotting to get the girl, which he manages by a complex bit of blackmail and self-sacrifice that enables the doctor to get away free to Switzerland if Maria stays in Germany and (presumably) becomes one of the minister’s mistresses (until dying in that air raid).  No mention of Magda, Goebbels’ genuinely devoted (if fanatically Nazi) wife, or the six children they had (and murdered).  The punchline is Goebbels swearing no enemy will set foot on European soil, followed by a caption that declares him a fine liar but a poor prophet – very topical in 1944.

Director Alfred Zeisler, who had worked in Germany, does an adequate job with his own trite screenplay, and there are a few nice compositions courtesy of John Alton – a roomful of celebrating Nazis heiling.  Andor, aka Wolfgang Zilzer, had a run of Nazi bit-parts during the war, but this was his sole (notional) lead.  He mostly makes evil faces, though he’s a fair lookalike for Goebbels (the Nazi’s limp isn’t emphasised); he’s no competition for Martin Kosleck, who plays Goebbels in several other films.  It has a good supporting cast: Charles Halton, as a reader of children’s stories whose broadcast is interrupted when uniformed goons take over the station, Sigrid Gurie, Ralph Morgan, Gloria Stuart, Gene Roth.


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