The Moon Is Down DVD Review: Suicidal Norwegians vs. the Nazi Menace

Solution: lunar antidepressants.
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Based on the 1942 novel by John Steinbeck by the same name, 20th Century Fox's 1943 ode to freedom The Moon Is Down centers on the Nazi invasion of a small costal Norwegian town during the very midst of World War II. While the book was a bit vague on the identities of the invading force, the movie - written by The Dirty Dozen screenwriter Nunnally Johnson - is as blatant as can be as to who the villains are. We begin with an extended shot of a typically angry F├╝hrer (or rather, his overly-expressive hands) shouting in his native tongue that Germany must occupy Norway. And, immediately after the credits have rolled, a large division of Nazis troops parachute in just in time to slaughter the local (tiny) military unit that's away on a routine training mission - making way for the baddies to simply walk into town and declare it theirs.

Leading the invasion is a bored Col. Lanser (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), who has been there and done that so many times over that he knows what to expect from a community such as this. And he gets it - big time - from the previously peaceful folks of the sleepy Norwegian town who don't approve of being occupied and forced to do that which they have no desire to do. Everyone's favorite classic movie angel, the great Henry Travers, plays the town's mayor - whose home is taken over by Lanser and his cronies in hopes he will be unable to persuade his people to rebel. Lee J. Cobb is Travers' longtime doctor pal, and Dorris Bowdon (the wife of screenwriter Johnson, who essentially retired from film after this) portrays a recently widowed housewife who unwittingly attracts the attention of a lovesick Nazi lieutenant (a young Peter van Eyck, in his first credited film role).

Irving Pichel (Dracula's Daughter) directs this fairly engaging drama about the triumph of the oppressed, tossing in a number of familiar faces (or soon-to-be-familiar faces) to fill in the bit parts including Jeff Corey, John Mylong (Robot Monster), and a young girl by the name of Natalie Wood - whom Pichel discovered and cast here in what turned out to be the doomed actress' debut. Fox brings this seldom seem WWII ditty to DVD via the Fox Cinema Archives, and presents the film in a more-than-passable presentation with a clear and precise mono soundtrack. There are no special features included with this release, but - if the subject matter doesn't appeal to any of you classic movie aficionados out there - the impressive cast of leads and extras alike might keep your brain occupied long enough to play "Oh, who is that person?!" for the better part of an hour-and-a-half.

I s'pose that should suffice if nothing else.

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