Thursday, June 6, 2013

Resisting Enemy Interrogation

A few months ago, I briefly made mention of the training film Resisting Enemy Interrogation. Today being June 6, the anniversary of the Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy, TCM is running a bunch of movies that more or less deal with D-Day, with Resisting Enemy Interrogation showing up at 3:30 PM.

This, as I said, was a training film, made during World War II by the First Motion Picture Unit of the US Army Air Corps. (The US Air Force wasn't a separate branch of the military until about 1947.) Lloyd Nolan (uncredited, as is everybody here) narrates, playing a commanding officer briefing and debriefing the flyboys on the importance of not giving any information to the Nazis. The thing is, those Nazis are, despite any propaganda from regular Hollywood movies, really quite clever, and you'd be surprised how much information they can get without having to resort to torture.

Cut to a POW camp somewhere in the Axis countries. The US has been running bombing raids, and the Germans are quite anxious to figure out where the bombers are going to attack, and in what strength. They've shot down one of the US bombers, taken the crew prisoner, and set out to get the information they need. Resisting Enemy Interrogation shows how the Nazis use all sorts of obvious and subtle means, from simply splitting up the various crewmen to having American turncoats play American soldiers. Even in simple small talk, the Americans unwittingly give away tiny little bits of information, enabling the Nazis to gain an astonishing amount of knowledge about the Americans' plans.

This was all done with a vital purpose in mind: impressing upon raw American recruits that the Nazis meant serious business. All of the sides in the war would have had sophisticated intelligence gathering operations run be people who were experts in psychology, going up against what were effectively amateurs. I don't think anybody would have much of a chance against such techniques, even having seen a training film like this. But several things make Resisting Enemy Interrogation interesting for a civilian audience 70 years on. One that I've already mentioned is that there's a decided difference between the way Nazis are treated here, and the way they're portrayed in Hollywood movies. But also interesting is how the First Motion Picture Unit used a narrative structure to get their points across.

The IMDb lists everybody in the movie as uncredited; I honestly don't remember whether there were any credits at all. (This being purely a training film, there was no need for any credits.) But there are a number of moderately famous Hollywood names in addition to Lloyd Nolan who show up here. George O'Hanlon, the voice of George Jetson, plays a pilot at the American headquarters. Kent Smith is the American-born Nazi agent. Arthur Kennedy plays one of the POWs. All in all, Resisting Enemy Interrogation is quite the interesting experience.

I don't think it's available on DVD, but it's in the public domain, and has made it to Youtube.

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