An international crew on a bombing run for the RAF crash behind enemy lines. They escape their Nazi captors and make their way west by whatever means possible. Our heroes leave in their wake a path of destruction as they make their way back to allied territory, much to the frustration of the pursuing Germans. Their vitality appears unlimited, and even in the end they seem ready to hit the Pacific after a quick mend and a hearty steak dinner.
No, the movie certainly isn't dull. The likelihood of such a pursuit going even half the distance is a bit far-fetched, but that's okay. Watching such a small group of individuals cause so much damage can be great fun, particulary in wartime when it was first released.
The supporting cast was already familiar to Flynn fans: Alan Hale & Ronald Reagan are the Americans of the unit, and Arthur Kennedy (who was with the good guys this time around following his role as Sharp in THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON) is the token Canadian. Raymond Massey gets to play the bad guy once more, sputtering Major Baumeister. Add a pretty girl to represent the civilians in those softer moments (Nancy Coleman), and you've got a little something for everyone.
One of the nicer touches of this film is the realistic use of language. German is spoken when it should be and English likewise; either you and the characters in the scene understand what is said or you don't (and those of us unfamiliar with German often catch the gist just the same). That the language barrier serves as an advantage to some and a disadvantage to others is one of the things that make the movie particularly interesting.
During the filming of DESPERATE JOURNEY, Errol Flynn - who had by then become a US citizen - attempted to enlist in the military. He was given not only a 4F rating as when he tried to sign on with the UK as did his British friends during the late 1930s, but was diagnosed with tuberculosis and a bad heart. He even used his acquaintance with Eleanor Roosevelt to bend the rules a little but to no avail. And it didn't help matters when his ill health was covered up while the press and his public criticised the star for playing hero in the movies rather than do his part in real life.
DESPERATE JOURNEY is the first of two films in which Errol Flynn actually plays an Australian, which is what he was (Warner PR spread the word that Flynn was Irish in an effort to tone down a wild history. Then again, nobody has yet to either confirm or deny whether he was in fact the inspiration for their Looney Tunes' cartoon creation The Tasmanian Devil [aka Taz]). It is amusing to watch Flynn try to effect a mild Aussie inflection in places, but he eventually gives up and sounds like he usually does.
Desperate Journey is available from MGM/UA Home Video and the perfect thing to watch on a rainy afternoon. Or anytime for that matter!
All original contents (writing, graphics) ęD.David and
may not be used without permission