Monday, August 19, 2013

Lisa, without David

Not to be confused with the movie David and Lisa is the totally different 1962 film Lisa. Lisa is airing today at 1:00 PM on the Fox Movie Channel, with a repeat tomorrow morning at 9:15 AM and another repeat in September.

Lisa, played by Dolores Hart, is Lisa Held, a survivor of the concentration camp at Auschwitz who is trying to survive in the Europe of 1946. Or, more accurately, she's trying to make it to Palestine, which in 1946 was not yet the independent state of Israel, and still part of the British Mandate. Jews were trying to make it to Palestine, but the British were trying to stop them, leading to a terrible refugee crisis. So when we first see Lisa, she's actually with a smuggler (Marius Goring in a small role) who's trying to get her to Palestine, by way of Amsterdam and London.

Except, of course, that the smuggler isn't really trying to get her to Palestine. He's a Nazi who's part of a human trafficking operation that sends the women on to Latin America, where they'll presumably be sex slaves. Dutch police inspector Peter Jongman (Stephen Boyd) is on the case, and follows Lisa on the ferry to the UK, where he doesn't have any jurisdiction. Still, he follows her to the trafficker's house. In addition to trafficking in women, he sells old Nazi daggers, and in a struggle with Jongman he accidentally stabs himself to death with one of the daggers. Jongman knows Lisa didn't do it; she knows she didn't do it; both know they'll be accused of it -- or more specifically her because she's weak as a refugee. So it's smuggling her back to Amsterdam and figure out what to do from there.

The thing is, Jongman had done some work with the resistance in the Netherlands, but lost his Jewish fiancée to the Nazis. So he feels a particular obligation to Lisa that nobody else in the Dutch police does, and Jongman is willing to break the law to get Lisa to Palestine. This first involves getting Lisa on a barge captained by Captain Brandt (Leo McKern), who was also involved in the resistance and whose barge can still hide people trying to escape the Nazis. Eventually, Lisa and Peter make their way to Tangiers in Morocco, which is a jumping off point for smuggling people by sea to Palestine. There are several problems, though. First is getting the money to pay to smuggle Lisa. She and Peter don't have it; the good smuggler van der Pink (Hugh Griffith) wants it -- a lot of it. Second is the fact that the British know Jewish refugees are congregating in Tangiers to try to get to Palestine, and the British are watching the place. Specifically, there's one watching Peter and Lisa, since they are after all wanted by the British authorities for that justifiable homicide back in London. And then there's the medical examination for Lisa to get her clearance by the Haganah into Palestine. Lisa has a particular fear of medical examinations....

On the whole, Lisa is an interesting and worthy movie. Dolores Hart, who about a year after this movie was made would leave Hollywood for a Catholic convent in Connecticut, doesn't come across as particularly Jewish, but she's more than adequate as a refugee. Stephen Boyd is good enough as her sturdy protector who could really be of any nationality. Of the supporting characters, Leo McKern is probably around the most since they spend a seemingly long time on that barge. He does well as a devoutly Christian man who knows fully well his two passengers are lying through their teeth about their identities but keeps them aboard anyhow. If the movie has problems, it's that it feels as though it goes on too long (as I said, they spend a lot of time on that barge), and even more than in a Hitchcock movie Peter and Lisa get saved by coincidence. Still, it's well worth your time.

Lisa has received a DVD release from the Fox MOD archives There are several movies with the title Lisa, however, and the one that the TCM Database advertises on its page for the 1962 Lisa is actually for a more recent movie. The 1962 Lisa, however, is available at Amazon.

1 comment:

Tom said...

I caught the ending of "Lisa" yesterday when it aired...I recently upgraded my cable subscription so I now get Fox Movie Channel and Turner Classic Movies.