Tuesday, April 13, 2021

They Live Dangerously

One of the movies that I had the chance to record off of TCM during John Garfield's turn as Star of the Month was Dangerously They Live. It's available on a standalone DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive, so I recently watched it to do a review here.

We don't see Garfield for a couple of minutes; instead we first meet Jane (Nancy Coleman), leaving a British consulate-type building in New York. She gets into a taxi, not realizing that others have arranged it so she'd get into this particular taxi, which isn't going to take her where she wants to go. However, during the trip, the taxi gets into enough of a fender-bender to stop traffic. Jane is taken to the hospital for observation.

The reason she's being observed in hospital is because she claims not to know who she is. Intern Michael Lewis (that's John Garfield, not that you could miss him) is put on the case as he had an interest in amnesia from his medical school days. But Jane tells him that she doesn't really have amnesia; instead, she's Jane Greystone, a British agent with some secrets about the North Atlantic convoys that the Nazis want so they can bomb the convoys. (The movie was made just before the US entered World War II but not released until a few weeks after Pearl Harbor, which would explain the Americans' behavior here.)

Dr. Lewis doesn't know what to believe at first. Then, a man named Mr. Goodwin (Moroni Olsen) comes to the hospital claiming to be Jane's father. She claims not to recognize him, although she knows that he's with the fifth columnists. Dr. Lewis at least comes up with a reasonable test to find out whether Goodwin is telling the truth, which is to bring some photos of him and a younger Jane.

Put on the case by Goodwin is Dr. Ingersoll (Raymond Massey), whom Lewis knows from his medical school days. What Lewis doesn't realize is that Ingersoll is also one of the fifth columnists, so his pronouncements on Jane's condition are not necessarily to be believed. Eventually, Jane agrees to go home with "Dad", even if she knows the Goodwin place is a trap (she refers to it as a "concentration camp") but only if Dr. Lewis can accompany her to stay on the case.

As I said, it's a trap, and Jane and Dr. Lewis are not allowed to go out when and where they want, with Goodwin and his associates eventually separating the two. They drug Jane (she really didn't suspect her food was drugged??) and take her away, while Lewis escapes and goes to the police. But Goodwin and company have powerful allies....

Dangerously They Live is little more than a routine programmer, which is entertaining enough and well acted, although the plot leaves a lot to be desired. The bad guys in Saboteur, for example, had the good sense to split up Bob Cummings and Priscilla Lane when they were spotted at the party, but Goodwin has them brought back together in one place of captivity. You'd also think Lewis would have some more common sense, in addition to what I've said about Jane.

Overall, Dangerously They Live reminds me of other early World War II movies like Joe Smith, American (from MGM) or Busses Roar (Warner Bros.). They're all decent enough time-passers, but understandably nothing memorably great. They weren't designed to be, and in some ways that surprises me in the case of Dangerously They Live since John Garfield's career was really on the upswing.

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