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A Movie A Day: Quint on THE SEARCH (1948)
He thinks we’re SS men or something. No wonder he’s scared to death.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] So today’s movie was recorded off the DRV (thanks to TCM’s outstanding programming) and it’s a 1948 post WW2 film called THE SEARCH starring Montgomery Clift, who we follow over from yesterday’s TERMINAL STATION and directed by Fred Zinnemann (HIGH NOON, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS). I must apologize in advance of this review. I had Fantastic Fest films all day and as I write this is it’s just past 3am CST. I have a 10am movie, which means if I hurry I can get about 4 ½ hours of sleep (and five movies to see tomorrow, not counting tomorrow’s AMAD), so I’m afraid I’m going to do the short-short version of AMAD today. I almost wish the movie wasn’t so good so I could just write a quicky “Boy, this sucks ass. Avoid. Peace, out!” piece, but that’s not the case, much to my fatigued mind’s consternation. What’s immediately striking about this film is the setting. The US army allowed the filmmakers into US occupied Germany to shoot pieces of this film and the filmmakers smartly puts that up front as a title card so that when you watch the story of children survivors of the holocaust you can also view it as a documentation of history. Knowing that a good majority (if not all) of the demolished buildings in the small towns and desolate roadsides are essentially set decorated by the allied forces as they pushed into Germany at the end of the war gives the film a deeper emotional punch than I expected.

Montgomery Clift gets top billing, but the main character is a young Czech boy named Karel played by Ivan Jandl. Now Jandl is maybe 9 years old when he filmed this movie and is electric, positively magnetic, giving one of the great child performances in film history. In fact, he was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Juvenile performer for this film and was given a special “Juvenile Award” Oscar. And he never acted again. He has one credit and it’s this movie. Amazing. Anyway, the setting is immediately after the Allies captured Germany and are in the process of sorting through the concentration camp survivors. There’s a special branch of the army that is set up to reconnect families separated during the war. Thousands of terrified children are rounded up and processed. The US are the good guys, but these kids only hear foreign languages from men in costumes trying to put them on trains and trucks just like the Nazis. Karel freaks out and runs off with another boy, pursued by the army guys. They both jump into a river, trying to swim across, but the current is strong. Karel is able to get himself back to the river’s edge, but the other boy isn’t so lucky and drowns (rather graphically, actually). Karel remains hidden and is assumed drowned as well. He wanders the rubble for a while before running into Clift, playing Steve, a young army bridge-builder. It’s up to Clift to gain the boy’s trust and care for him as he tries to figure out his identity. Unfortunately, the boy is so scarred by his internment at Auschwitz (and was so young when separated from his mother and father) that he can’t remember anything, even his name. Clift gradually teaches the boy English and a very quick father/son bond is created between them.

While all this is going on, the boy’s mother is shown to have survived (but not the rest of his family, including an older sister and father) and is going from post to post, looking for her son. Jarmila Novtna plays Karel’s mother, Hannah Malik. The two are closer than either of them expects and by the third act we realize the main conflict here is Clift’s interest in the boy. He’s about to be shipped back to America and wants to bring the boy with him, but can’t until a lot of red tape is cut through. Karel (who Clift names Jim) is taught what a mother is and has a single memory of his own, leading him on a desperate quest to find her. Everything it great here except for one glaring horror and that’s an awful, horrible, ear-splittingly bad narration in the first 20 minutes that consists of an overly happy woman explaining what’s going on in people’s heads. I have no idea why they do it. The movie doesn’t need it and it is only there for the first reel then is completely dropped, thank God. But it really is horrible, like one of those laughably bad ‘50s educational film strips about what to do during a Communist Attack or how girls can learn to sew and keep house and shit. But other than that, it’s an amazing movie with a stellar and vulnerable performance by Clift who seems to always get fucked over in the AMADs we’ve covered so far. Ivan Jandl is great, Clift is great, Novotna is great, the photography is great, the script (minus the voiceover) is great (so great it won the Oscar). Final Thoughts: I can’t believe this one isn’t more well known or lauded… at least released on a decent DVD. It’s an Oscar winner, a fantastic document of a specific time period in World History thanks to the shooting locations and an extremely touching and well-acted film. I wonder if Criterion’s ever thought about going after it? It’s right up their alley.

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Tuesday, September 23rd: ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948) Wednesday, September 24th: HOUDINI (1953) Thursday, September 25th: MONEY FROM HOME (1953) Friday, September 26th: PAPA’S DELICATE CONDITION (1963) Saturday, September 27th: DILLINGER (1945) Sunday, September 28th: BATTLE OF THE BULGE (1965) Monday, September 29th: DAISY KENYON (1947) Alright, that covered more ground than I expected. Nappy-bye time. I hope to God I have enough caffeine in the fridge to help me not faulter on the column and get through tomorrow’s ACT OF VIOLENCE, but a quick look-up shows it clocking in at a short 82 minutes, so I think I can make it… plus it sounds fucking killer… another WW2 movie from Fred Zinnemann, but with Robert Ryan (yay!), Janet Leigh and Van Heflin. See you folks tomorrow for that one! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station

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