Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Red Danube

Angela Lansbury's movies started tonight at 8:00 PM, but they continue into tomorrow morning. The last of them for this week is The Red Danube, airing at 9:00 AM tomorrow.

Lansbury plays Audrey Quail, an adjutant to British colonel Hooky Nicobar (Walter Pidgeon). Hooky is stationed in the British sector of Vienna back in those days not long after World War II when Austria and Vienna were occupied by the four victorious powers from World War II (you'll probably remember this from The Third Man). As with Berlin, people were trying to make their way from one sector to another in Vienna, in that they wanted to get away from one country or another. Part of the job of the various militaries was to repatriate people back to countries they originally came from, as there were a lot of refugees in the early postwar years.

However, there weren't only refugees, there were people who didn't want to go back to their original countries, especially not the Soviet Union. It's Hooky's job to return them, which in this case means ballerina Olga Alexandrova (Janet Leigh). She's got some people on her side, however, in the form of Mother Auxilia (Ethel Barrymore), a nun who leads a convent and tries to hide escapees when she can; and British major Twingo McPhinister (Peter Lawford). He doesn't see why Soviets should be forcibly repatriated assuming they don't want to go -- and while trying to convince Hooky of this, he falls in love with Olga.

The political situation is in some ways the main part of the story, at least in how it drives the story line of Leigh's character. But there's also the subplot of Lawford's relationship with her, and a second subplot of Pidgeon's loss of faith (he lost his son in the war) and his journey to find it again, helped enormously by Barrymore's Mother Auxilia, who is one of those characters who just won't take "no" for an answer. The movie is quite good at times, showing for example the horrible fate awaiting people who would be repatriated to the Soviet Union. It doesn't do this as well as movies like The Third Man or The Big Lift show the bad life faced by people living in postwar Vienna and Berlin respectively, although it looks like The Red Danube doesn't have nearly as extensive the location shooting that either of the other two movies did. On the other hand, The Red Danube also effectively shows the difficult situation that Western military officials were in when having to deal with the Soviets. By the time of this movie, Berlin had already been blockaded, so the consequences of non-cooperatoin with the Soviets were fairly obvious. (As an aside, the occupation of Austria didn't end until 1955.) On the bad side, the movie has an ending that seems a little too pat.

The Red Danube hasn't gotten a DVD release, which is a bit of a surprise.

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