Wednesday 14 October 2020

Hostages (Frank Tuttle, 1943)


Hostages (1943) which I screened from a brand new 35mm print in Bologna in August 2020 remains one of my favourite WWII resistance films. Below, programme notes written for the Cinema Ritrovato screening. — EK

One of the most sobering wartime films made in Hollywood about the atrocities in Europe, this is also one of Tuttle’s greatest. Written by Lester Cole, soon to be blacklisted, the film’s historical perspective and visionary nature matches that of Cole’s other great achievement from the following year, None Shall Escape. William Bendix, in one of his finest screen roles, plays a restaurant waiter in 1943 Prague; considered an idiot, he is in fact a resistance leader. His workplace is frequented by Nazi officers and when a homesick officer kills himself, the Gestapo calls it a murder and vows retaliation. Random citizens are picked for execution, including the resistance leader and a collaborator. While the initial death is considered a murder, the film ends with a Nazi passing off the murder of another officer as suicide.