Friday, March 2, 2018

Went the Day Well?

I mentioned a couple of weeks back when I blogged about It Always Rains on Sunday that there's an outfit putting out ultra-cheap DVDs of British movies. (I wouldn't be surprised if they're gray-market DVDs, but there's also the thorny topic of orphan copyrights.) Another movie I bought in that vein is Went the Day Well?

The movie was made in 1942 during World War II, but is told in flashback from a future in which the Allies had already defeated the Germans. In the bucolic village of Bramley End, we're informed of a monument with the names of some Germans on it. Therein lies a story of how Germans ended up in Bramley End in World War II....

One Saturday, at Whitsun (Pentecost in American Christianity), a group of English soldiers come to the village to be billeted for a couple of days, as the local squire Wilsford (Leslie Banks) tells them. This is perfectly normal as there's a war on and a lot of soldiers on the move. However, the villagers begin to develop some suspicions about the soldiers, in ways both plausible (they get some scratch paper in which one of the soldiers has written a 7 with a slash through it, as is much more common in continental Europe) and implausible (they find a wrapper for some Viennese chocolate; you'd think the Nazis would have nipped that one in the bud).

So the villagers go to the squire to voice their concerns that something fishy is going on, and he takes them to the soldiers. It's at this point the soldiers reveal that the villagers' suspicions are well-grounded, and that the soldiers are in fact the first in what is going to be a Nazi invasion of Britain; Bramley End is to be used as a beachhead. And now that the villagers know, of course the Nazis have to take them all hostage and start to carry out their plan a bit earlier! Worse for the villagers, the squire is the double agent who is in fact working for the Nazis!

Unsurprisingly, the villagers decide they're not going to take this lying down. At this point we get a bunch of standard movie tropes of things that people who are hostages or kidnapping victims might try to do to get word out about their situation. Those tropes also dictate that they come just short of succeeding, until it's time for the climax. One woman tries to make a surreptitious phone call; another writes a message on an eggshell; another gives a piece of scratch paper with a note on it to a visitor. Eventually, it's up to a young boy to try to escape and save the day....

Went the Day Well? is, despite what sounds like a formulaic plot, actually a pretty good movie. It effectively builds its suspense and results in a suitable climax, with of course the happy ending that the British win, because there was no way you could have made a movie about this subject with the Nazis winning. (I've always been mildly astonished that In Which We Serve which has a pretty bleak message for the most part, got made, although it has a rousing epilogue. Of course, the British Ministry of Information had a large hand in the proceedings.)

The version I got seems no longer to be available at Amazon at the low price, although it does at the TCM Shop. Amazon does have other prints available, however.

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