The Dawn Express (March 27, 1942)
Released March 27, 1942: (running time 62 minutes) Two U.S. chemical companies are developing a secret formula for making gasoline much more powerful, and a Nazi spy ring stops at nothing to get the formula.
Directed by Albert Herman
Written by Arthur St. Claire
The Actors: Michael Whalen (Robert Norton), Anne Nagel (Nancy Fielding), William Bakewell (Tom Fielding), Constance Worth (Linda Pavlo), Hans Heinrich von Twardowski (Captain Gemmler), Jack Mulhall (Chief Agent James Curtis), George Pembroke (Professor Karl Schmidt), Kenneth Harlan (Agent Brown), Robert Frazer (John Oliver), Hans von Morhart (Heinrich, a kidnapper), Michael Vallon (Argus,the blind spy), Willy Castello (Otto the tavern spy), Charles Calvert (headwaiter), Jack Cheatham (Max the bartender), Jack Gardner (Nazi spy), George Burr Macannan (Wolf, the kidnap car driver), Frank Mayo (the detective shadowing Tom), George Morrell (waiter), C. Montague Shaw (Franklin Prescott), Rudolph Steinboeck (restaurant patron), Crane Whitley (agent), Poppy Wilde (restaurant patron), William Yetter Sr. (Heinrich's partner/kidnapper).
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The attack on Pearl Harbor happened in December 1941, and the U.S. quickly declared war on both Japan and Germany. This movie was released in March of 1942, and it is one of may 'propoganda' films made during the war years to educate Americans and to keep us mentally in a mood to fight. Public opinion is the biggest part of fighting any war. If the general public is not solidly behind the effort, it will be doomed, as we learned in Viet Nam many years later.
The U.S. is developing a secret formula that will more than double the power of gasoline, and the Nazis want it. The U.S. is smart enough to divide the work between two separate plants, so that only half the formula is available at any time. One half is made by Professor Schmidt, who turns out to be a Nazi collaborator, and disappears with his half of the formula. The other half is being developed by two chemists at another plant, Robert and Tom. Robert likes Tom's sister, and is an upstanding fellow. Tom, on the other hand, is a skirt chaser and bar fly who the Nazis target by using a young bonde agent to seduce him. Tom is finally threatened with the death of his mother and sister if he doesn't cooperate with the Nazis, and the U.S. agent that is secretly following Tom to keep him safe is killed by the Nazis.
Robert discovers that Tom is being pursued by the Nazis, and has a talk with Tom and his sister, where they decide to tell the government about the Nazis and try to stop them. The climax comes when Robert, then Tom, both go to the Nazi headquarters in the back of a restaurant, and Tom is taken aboard a plane headed for Germany, The Dawn Express, along with the missing professor, and both parts of the formula. U.S. government agents capture or kill all of the remaining spies, but the Dawn Express airplane escapes into the air with the men and the formula, building for the grand finale.
The plot is very transparent, you won't be puzzled for long about who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, and it moves along very predictable paths, but is still a very good peek into the mind-set of America as it prepares for war with the world.