THE STRANGE DEATH OF ADOLF HITLER (1943)
Article 4575 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by James P. Hogan
Featuring Ludwig Donath, Gale Sondergaard, George Dolenz
What it is: Wartime propaganda thriller
In occupied Austria during World War II, a clerk with an amazing facility for voice mimicry is arrested by the Gestapo after giving an uncanny imitation of the Fuhrer. His family is led to believe he has been shot as a traitor; in reality, he is forced to undergo plastic surgery to make him resemble Adolf Hitler. The motive behind this is that he will serve as decoy to stave off assassination attempts.
This is first and foremost a piece of wartime propaganda, with the intent of showing the evils and the brutality of the Nazi regime, though one should bear in mind that the movie was made before the death camps were public knowledge. It’s somewhat similar to THE MAGIC FACE, though that movie was made after the war was over. It’s a decent enough thriller and propaganda piece, but I most like to speculate about its fantastic content. As a movie of its own era, it might qualify in terms of being speculative political fiction in that it takes place on the world stage. However, it’s also the type of movie that, if events had fallen out a certain way, might have qualified as alternate history after the fact. Without engaging in spoilers, I can’t give away whether the events fall out that way; suffice it to say that the movie remains pretty marginal in terms of its fantastic content. The most interest theme here involves a discussion as to whether or not the death of Hitler alone would be enough to undo the Nazi cause, a question I’m not sure history has really answered. This one is not bad for what it is.