Andre de Toth anticipated the Nuremberg trials in this stunning drama, made in 1944 before the war's end and praised at the time for avoiding anti-Nazi cliches. Set in Poland, it centers on the trial of a Nazi official responsible for many murders, played with cool resolve by Alexander Knox. His brother and ex-fiancee testify against him, their words illustrated with flashbacks that constitute the bulk of the film. Lee Garmes's cinematography has the same delicacy and careful backlighting as his work for Josef von Sternberg, but de Toth uses it to very different ends. The imagery lacks Sternberg's sensuality, the flashbacks starkly blocked and confrontational; more direct and less ambiguous than in de Toth's later films, the visual style echoes the brutality of the action. The film ends with a typically preachy appeal to the “united nations of the world,” but the accused Nazi's chilling might-makes-right speech is perhaps more in character than the just-following-orders defense offered at Nuremberg.
By Fred Camper