The North Star (1943)

Genres - War  |   Sub-Genres - Propaganda Film, War Drama, Resistance Film  |   Release Date - Nov 4, 1943 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Michael Costello

Part of Hollywood's government-abetted effort at rallying public opinion to the side of the Soviet Union during WWII, North Star ironically became a crucial piece of evidence for the fellow-traveling of its creators during the McCarthy era. Although Lewis Milestone's melodrama is a reasonably well-made piece of propaganda, it's a few cuts below the best work of its A-list talent. The film contrasts the bucolic life of the farming village, its saintly physician, and its utterly wholesome young people with the immeasurable evil of the Nazi invaders who have seized the village in order to drain the blood of its children to treat their wounded. These scenes of involuntary blood donation remain disturbing enough that one understands why they were nearly cut by contemporary censors. Among the film's noteworthy aspects are the subtle performances of Erich von Stroheim as the self-exculpating Nazi doctor and Walter Huston, who invests his godlike village elder with a complexity not found in the script. The simple, spacious score of Aaron Copland is also well-adapted to the rural setting.