Saturday, October 26, 2013

Looking for radio

I notice that TCM is running the short Patrolling the Ether tomorrow morning at about 9:35 AM, just after the feature Cheers for Miss Bishop (which starts at 8:00 AM and runs 94 minutes). This is part of the Crime Does Not Pay series, but is a bit different from othe rentries in the series, in that it doesn't really deal with crimes that the average people going to the movies and seeing this before the feature would have either gotten involved in or fallen victim to. Instead, it deals with fifth columnists who have illicit radio transmission gear trying to send messages to the Axis powers, and the vituous people of the FCC who try to find the equipment and apprehend the criminals. There are several realtively boring scenes of men in detector vans trying to triangulate the source of the radio waves so that they can get the bad guys.

Finding radio waves, as well as the worry from the transmitting side over whether those transmissions are going to be detected, is something that shows up quite a few times in movies about World War II. Building radio equipment to send messages to the Nazis is one of the substantial plot points of The House on 92nd Street. He has difficulty getting the radio equipment without being detected by the US, except that he's working for the US. The Nazi agents eventually discover that his equipment isn't powerful enough to transmit to Germany, which is a problem for him.

Similarly, Bob Cummings realizes that something's up -- and finally gets Priscilla Lane to believe him -- when he discovers radio transmitting equipment in an "abandoned" shack in Soda City in Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur. Nobody here is actually looking for the illicit radio gear, however.

There were also people fighting the Nazis who had radio equipment and were deathly afraid of the Nazis catching them. It's how James Cagney gets caught on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines in 13 Rue Madeleine. And those detector vans I mentioned at the beginning? We get to see more of those in The Heroes of Telemark. Speaking of The Heroes of Telemark, I see that it has received a DVD release since I blogged about it back in 2008.

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