Watch on the Rhine, screenplay by Dashiell Hammett, based on the play by Lillian Hellman
Considering the villain in this motion picture is a Romanian count- however, it is not the infamous Dracula – this cinephile must have been biased, seeing a compatriot involved in such nefarious acts.
Watch on the Rhine has been nominated for important Academy Awards, including for Best Motion Picture, and has won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading role – for Paul Lukas as Kurt Muller – and the Golden Globe in the same category.
Furthermore, this feature has been included on the prestigious The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made List:
The legendary Bette Davis has another leading role, that of Sara Muller, the devoted wife of the hero, Kurt Muller, arriving at her home in the United States, after extensive travels in countries of Europe and Mexico.
Fanny Farrelly is the mother and host, while David Farrelly is the loving brother, both welcoming a large family, for Kurt and Sara have three children, from the young but outspoken, fluent in a few languages and proud Bodo to Joshua, a young man who will soon be eighteen and ready to show how brave and determined he is.
Staying with the rich, generous and welcoming Farrelly family – perhaps ancestors of the famous brothers – is a couple, Marthe and Teck de Brancovis – perhaps inspired by a name with deep historical significance in Romania – Brancoveanu.
The count is a gambler but he has reached bottom, for he has no more money to play cards with, or indeed, do anything, given that he only has eighty-five dollars left, no job and no perspective.
Furthermore, the relationship between the count and his wife are more than tense, he suspects David Farrelly attracts her and she knows the vicious character traits of her spouse, that would soon become apparent for the audience as well.
When the Muller family arrives, Fanny Farrelly is marked by the fatigue of the guests, especially her son in law, who looks very tired and talks to his host about the many countries they had visited and his occupation.
The hosts want to help and find a position for Kurt Muller, while asking him about his profession, which they know to be that of engineer, even if the man states that he has not worked in that capacity for many years.
He is reluctant to confess that his present position does not provide for the family, but then he is proud to speak about his involvement in the resistance movement – an explanation is written at the beginning of the film, when the public is informed of the fact that some people rose up against Hitler from the very beginning.
The treacherous Teck de Brancovis plays cards with a German diplomat, envoy of the third Reich and when he meets Kurt Muller, he suspects that he has seen the other guest, either in person or in some other manner.
The count used to work in the Romanian embassy in Europe, wants to return to his continent, but has no money or visa and thinks that he can make a dirty deal with the Nazis, once he understands the position of the mysterious Kurt Muller, with his injured hands.
For that, the repulsive count breaks the lock of a suitcase, finds a revolver, more than twenty thousand dollars and somehow understands the position in the Resistance movement of this hero, role model, Ubermensch, Superman who has fought for freedom, suffered at the hands of the Nazis and helped multitudes.
Teck de Brancovis is ready to sell the leader of the Resistance to the fascists, travels to the German Embassy, where he asks for more details and says that he has a precious target for them, only to be refused by the diplomat who says that they cannot shoot anyone in America.
Nevertheless, if he delivers one such precious enemy in Germany, one of the territories they have already swallowed up or another, friendly territory, the informant would be able to name his price.
The count sets out to do just that when he returns to the Farrelly residence with his wife, who is very angry at his plans and announces that she is leaving him, has had enough of his atrocious ways.
This does not stop the nefarious, devilish individual who uses blackmail, asking for ten thousand from the money he has seen in the possession of the freedom fighter, or else he would sell him to the Nazis.
The Farrelly family – feeling somewhat guilty of having offered shelter to such scoundrel, a point also made by Sara Muller – offers to give the monster money and they try to arrange a financial transaction that would somehow guarantee the parties that the other would respect the agreement.
Given the now demonstrated venality of count Teck de Brancovis, they raise the possibility that he takes their money and then tops it out by selling Kurt Muller to the fascists, for a Double Indemnity.
The hero, Resistance leader, brave, intrepid, determined, strong, smart, creative protagonist finds another solution to the problem, which is more violent, uncomfortable for some of the others involved, but the best available solution.
This is an excellent film.