By SJWNY, a Trail Mix Contributor
Now & then you see a movie that, though not being the best, nevertheless sticks with you. I grew up in the central Southern Tier of New York State. Our cable company carried the TV station out of Elmira which was something close to UHF + a parody of SCTV’s premise. Every Saturday afternoon they showed obscure black & white films from the 1930s & 40s, probably because they were cheap. A plus side to this was I watched quite a few movies you’ve never heard of & never will. One such film was The Man Who Reclaimed His Head, starring my favorite male actor, Claude Rains. It’s one weird ride. It’s also stayed with me all these years.
The story takes place in 1914-15 France. Paul Verin (Claude Rains) is a writer, specifically about politics. He is a Pacifist. He is also poor & married to Adele (Joan Bennett gone blonde, as wooden & stilted an actress as ever, totally miscast. Her scenes drag. Just talking truth here.) Adele wants to ditch their town & move to Paris. The couple has a daughter, Linette (played by Baby Jane, real name: Juanita Quigley.)
Another fav actor, Lionel Atwill, plays Henri Dumont, a politician with big dreams who, though disagreeing with Verin on many subjects, acknowledges the writer’s brilliance. Dumont makes a deal with Verin: In exchange for ghost writing editorials (to be published under Dumont’s name) Verin will get paid handsomely. Deal done, Dumont gets nationally hailed as a friend of the People & Peace; Adele gets to return to Paris & spend Verin’s new wealth. Then Archduke Franz Ferdinand goes to Sarajevo…..
War! Uh-oh. Pacifism loses a lotta cachet. Rich weapons manufacturers meet with Dumont suggesting he change his views. Dumont, being the politician he is, accepts. Now how to deal with Verin? Why, start charming Adele, who being Adele, is easily swayed by francs, lots of ’em. Dumont rises to power; voters believe him to be a man of integrity based on his editorials. Verin, disgusted, leaves Dumont, eventually ending up in the Army. Rumor gets to Verin that Dumont & Adele are more than just good friends. Verin goes over the edge & gets back to Paris, walking in on Dumont & Adele. Verin pulls out his bayonet & kills Dumont. Not just kills: the title of the movie gives away how Verin does in Dumont. Btw, Verin carries the, uh, trophy in a satchel & takes it with him when he goes & confesses. Yep.
After recounting this oddly affecting movie, I have to say it remains relevant, as far as lying, user Politicians, Arms Dealers & Financiers exploiting war for profit, a gullible Public wanting & willing to believe a message when slickly offered in an uber Patriotic atmosphere, presented with an oh-so-professional believability. I certainly don’t condone violence or murder. Just how far can one be pushed before acting to reclaim your life? Your Country? Funny what a movie from 1934 continues to say even today. Any one listening?
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