The Last Chance (May 26, 1945)
Released on May 26, 1945: British and American soldiers in Northern Italy hook up with a handful of refugees trying to get to Switzerland to escape the advancing Nazi troops.
Produced by Lazar Wechsler
Directed by Leopold Lindtberg
Written by Alberto Barberis, Elizabeth Montagu, Richard Schweizer, andDavid Wechsler
The Actors: Ewart G. Morrison (Major Telford), John Hoy (Lieutenant John Halliday), Ray Reagan (Sergeant Jim Braddock), Luisa Rossi (Tonina), Giuseppe Galeati (wagon driver), Romano Calo (the Priest), Leopold Biberti (Swiss Lieutenant), Sigfrit Steiner (military doctor), Emil Gerber (frontier guard), Therese Giehse (Frau Wittels), Robert Schwarz (Bernard Wittels), Germaine Tournier (Mme. Monnier), Berthe Sakhnowsky (Chanele), Jean Martin (Dutchman), Carlo Romatko (Yugoslav worker), Keye Chang (First Mate), Tino Erler (Muzio), Maurice Sakhnowsky (Hillel), Gertrud ten Cate (Dutch woman)
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Escape . . . or DIE!
A few years ago I was on an amazing tour of the Tuscan region of Italy, and in the Milan, Italy airport, before we left on our adventure, our tour guide pointed to the snow-capped mountains in the distance and told us that they were in Switzerland. Only a half hour away by car, Switzerland seemed very close.
This World War II movie, produced in 1945 as the war was winding down but not over, is a realistic and amazing story about a motley group of disparate people in Northern Italy fleeing the advancing Nazi troops in search of freedom in Switzerland. As the movie opens we see a train full of Allied war prisoners . . . mostly British and American . . . along with Italians who were opposing the Nazi advance being transported from prison camps in Italy to camps in Germany.
The train is bombed by Allied planes and two prisoners escape, a British soldier and an American soldier. The two men decide to travel together in search of freedom in Switzerland. I won't go any further describing the plot, because their journey and their anticipation of the unknown that lies ahead is a huge part of our movie experience.
I could feel myself alongside them as they wondered if the next person they met would kill them or help them. In those days in Italy some of the local people were for the German war, and some were against it . . . but how can one tell which ones to trust? This movie is unlike any war movie that I have watched yet in very wonderful ways. There are no recognizable or terribly famous actors involved, so every actor quickly became a real person in a war-torn land and I forgot that it was a motion picture and became part of the adventure . . . this is a rare thing for movie fans . . . we often see an actor doing lines instead of becoming immersed in the story.
Another feature that sets this movie apart is the use of natural language. When a Dutch woman is speaking, she speaks in her native tongue, with English captions for the viewer’s sake, and the Brit and American soldiers struggle to understand. Italians speak in Italian and French is spoken, with others speaking in other European languages as our soldiers hook up with a handful of refugees from around Europe all trying to escape the war and get to freedom in Switzerland. With German troops hot on their trail and killing everyone in their path, our group of refugees only has one last chance to survive a quick death. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter on it and enjoy the show.
Ewart G. Morrison meets Ray Reagan and John Hoy
Ewart G. Morrison
John Hoy and Ray Reagan