8/10
excellent propaganda film
15 December 2009
Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara, George Sanders, Walter Slezak, Kent Smith, and Una O'Connor star in "This Land is Mine," a 1943 film directed by Jean Renoir.

The story takes place in a nameless small town in Europe where the Nazis have taken over - somewhere in France, perhaps. In this town, you can find a microcosm of all citizens living under oppression: there are collaborators, secret collaborators, and resistance workers. The majority of the people simply go along with what is happening, live by the rules, and hope to survive. Albert Lory (Charles Laughton) is one of the latter, a wimpy schoolmaster with a pushy mother and an out of control classroom. He's secretly in love with the beautiful Louise Martin (O'Hara), who is engaged to George Lambert (Sanders). Lambert is secretly collaborating with the Nazis, while Louise's brother Paul (Kent Smith) acts for all the world like a collaborator but is secretly a resistance worker. When an act of sabotage occurs, the Nazis take hostages until the perpetrator is found. Albert is one of them. This sets off a series of events that will lead to Albert becoming a changed man.

"This Land is Mine" is a beautiful, stirring film and a great piece of propaganda that, in its day, set box office records when it opened. Charles Laughton is magnificent as a coward who finds his voice, and uses it to convey his message in several monologues, delivered with simplicity and honesty. Acting as good as you will find anywhere, at any time. Great acting never goes out of style. Walter Slezak is excellent as a Nazi leader, having nailed down this type of role for himself after playing the superman German in "Lifeboat." All of the performances are very good.

I do agree with one reviewer here that they could have cast someone else as Albert's mother besides Una O'Connor. She's a little too cartoonish. I'm thinking of someone truly menacing like Margaret Wycherly from "White Heat." At the time of this film, she would have been 62; Laughton was 44. She would have been fantastic.

Highly recommended - this film probably meant a lot to movie audiences during World War II.
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