This 1942 Ealing thriller, directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, is one of the most remarkable slices of wartime propaganda ever filmed.
Based on a story by Graham Greene, it tells of a unit of German parachutists who, disguised as British soldiers, infiltrate the quiet village of Bramley End in preparation for a full-scale Nazi invasion. With mounting tension, it unfolds the villagers' detection of the imposters, their desperate attempts to warn the outside world, and certain heroic displays of courage and self-sacrifice. The violence on both sides is genuinely shocking: the Germans gun down a detachment of Home Guard, the captive villagers kill the enemy with knives and hatchets.
It was released too late in the year to stoke fears of actual invasion, yet it subtly captures an immemorial quality of English rural life – the church, the local gossip, the sense of community – and that streak of native "pluck" that people believed would see off Hitler. Its very oddness is magnificent, as though Dad's Army had suddenly morphed into a guerilla conflict of kill-or-be-killed.Reuse content