Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Produced by Edward A. Golden
Screen Plat by Emmet Lavery
Based on the novel Education For Death by Gregor Ziemer
Director Of Photography: Russell Metty, ASC
Film Editor: Joseph Noriega
Music: Roy Webb
Cast: Tim Holt (Karl Bruner), Bonita Granville (Anna Muller), Kent Smith (Prof. Nichols), Otto Kruger (Col. Henkel), H.B. Warner (The Bishop), Hans Conried (Dr. Graf), Nancy Gates (Brenda), Lloyd Corrigan (Franz Erhart), Peter Van Eyck, Edward Van Sloan, Richard Martin
What’s a movie about the Hitler Youth from 1943 doing on a blog dedicated to Westerns from the 1950s? That’s easy. It stars Tim Holt, one of the handful of actors, directors, writers and technical folks I swore to plug tirelessly when starting this thing up six years ago. Plus, it’s really good.
Tim Holt’s career is certainly an interesting one. He chose the cowboy star path rather than the typical leading man route, while showing time and time again that he was a more than capable actor. Films like The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948) and this one, Hitler’s Children (1942), show just how good he was. Holt’s performances and chemistry with Richard Martin (as Chito) are a big part of what makes their series of B Westerns so special. (Boy, am I preaching to the choir here!)
Hitler’s Children was seen by RKO as an exploitation picture, using the romance between an American student (Bonita Granville) and a young Nazi (Tim Holt) as a way to catalog various Nazi atrocities (the ones known at the time), from sterilization to flogging.
Director Edward Dmytryk: “Taken from a novel titled Education For Death, its story concerned the treatment of youthful nonconformists in Nazi Germany. A title with the word ‘Hitler’ in it was considered box-office poison, and the exhibitors asked [producer] Doc Golden and RKO to change ours. Doc was stubborn — and he was right. The film cost a little over $100,000, and, running only in England and the Western Hemisphere… grossed, by some accounts, $7,500,00.”
Dmytryk didn’t start the picture. He replaced Irving Reis after the first few days of shooting. Hitler’s Children stands as RKO’s highest-grossing film, taking in even more than the mighty King Kong (1933)! Dmytryk soon made his way to A pictures, with Murder, My Sweet coming in 1944.
Something like this needs a good cast to keep the melodrama from falling into parody. Holt and Granville are excellent, and they’re supported by some real pros: Kent Smith, Otto Kruger, H.B. Warner, Hans Conried, Nancy Gates, Peter Van Eyck, Edward Van Sloan and more. They say Richard Martin’s in there somewhere as a Gestapo stooge!
Russell Metty’s cinematography deserves a lot of credit for the film’s overall effectiveness. He sets the mood and menace perfectly, more than making up for the meager budget. The Nazi rally long shot that opens the film appears to be a miniature. It’s incredible. Metty simply does not get the respect he deserves.
Warner Archive has done its typically stellar work with this one. It’s a movie that really needs its strong contrast levels and solid blacks — and they’re near-perfect on this DVD-R. Hitler’s Children is a movie I’ve been championing for years, and I have no trouble recommending it highly — even though Tim’s packing a Luger, not a Colt.
And isn’t that six-sheet up top terrific?