THE ADVENTURES OF TARTU
UK, 1943, 111 minutes, Black and white.
Robert Donat, Valerie Hobson, Walter Rilla, Glynnis Johns.
Directed by Harold S. Bucquet.
The Adventure of Tartu is an entertaining war espionage, sabotage story. It was one of many made at the time - but this one is strong in plot as well as in performance. The success of the film rests on the presence and performance of Robert Donat. After successful films in England, like the Count of Monte Cristo, and his Oscar winning Goodbye Mr. Chips, Donat performed in the select group of significant films. This seems to have been part of his war effort. He portrays a British serviceman with Romanian background and impersonates a Romanian who is able to infiltrate himself into a poison gas works and destroy it.
Valerie Hobson is strong in the role of the Czech aristocrat who is part of the underground. A very young Glynis Johns has a good supporting role as a patriot worker in the factory. In hindsight, the film seems very strong, even callous, in the way matters of life and death are handled - but they reminds us of the life or death situation during World War 11 and the fears for Nazi domination.
1. Entertain war story, espionage, sabotage?
2. M.G.M. production values, black and white photography, English production, English cast? Musical score?
3. The title and its tone? The exotic tone of the name Tartu?
4. Robert Donat's authority and presence on the screen: the initial defusing of the bomb and his skills, humanity towards the nurse and her patient? His being called to headquarters, his ready acceptance of the mission, farewell to his Mother? Going into Romania, contact with the allies and the underground, his impersonation, papers? Travel? His gaudy style? Impressing German officials? Contact with the underground - and the arrest? His reporting in, being billeted? The encounter with Marushka and the attraction? Giving the room to the Landlady? Meeting her daughter? His double game with the Germans, the interviews, checking connections and the false phone call? His wanting to get to the gas factory? His being in uniform, strong Nazism? The discussions with Otto? The contact with Marushka, telling her the truth, wanting contact with the underground? The killing of the officer and his covering up for Pavla? Pavla and the sabotage, his having to report her, her death? Marushka turning against him? His going to the gas factory, the important position, the plan for the sabotage? Trying to get in touch with the underground, fearing that he was taken by the Gestapo, their support? The final warning, his going to be arrested, the sabotage and destruction? Flying to England with Marushka? The stiff upper lip British hero - with the sense of humour?
5. Marushka, Czech background, flirting with the Germans on the surface, being part of the underground? Attracted towards Tartu? Believing him, Pavla's death and her not believing him? Persuading Otto to track him down? Realising the truth too late? Trying to warn him? The getaway?
6. The landlady, billeting the officers, humiliated, the room in the kitchen, Pavla and her work in the factory? Her killing the officer? Tartu covering for her? The sabotage and her death?
7. The presentation of the Nazis, their attitudes and dominance, the loyalty to Hitler? Local authorities and local resentment? Otto and Marushka killing him?
8. The picture of the underground, their support of the British agents?
9. The material as dated, yet interesting because of the strong plot and characterisation? The propaganda in retrospect?