For Reel

Clouds Over Europe (1939)
March 16, 2016, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Tim Whelan
3 Stars
Clouds Over EuropeReleased six years before the start of the second World War II, Clouds Over Europe involves nefarious baddies (clearly meant to be German, although never explicitly stated in the script) who use a ray to disable airplanes in order to capture both crafts and crew. When two “experimental” aircrafts go missing, the case is pursued by a good-humored secret agent (Ralph Richardson) and a stud pilot (Laurence Olivier). Although Olivier looks especially uncomfortable attempting to navigate the machinery the script requires him to, Richardson delights in portraying his characters’ every quirk. He’s a man who is entirely self-amused, delighting himself with little regard for those around him. As a prototypical Bond film (the villains’ warship is populated by henchman and looks like a secret lair), it plays with tongue-in-cheek humor and involves a number of action set pieces on air, land, and sea. The main pleasures are the more absurd elements–the villain who disables airplanes does so by wearing hilariously large, slightly askew goggles–but Richardson and Valerie Hobson (as a reporter) are also worth the time. It is surprising to see such a good-humored spy film released in Britain so soon before the war, with the propagandist elements are not as pronounced as they would be in later films of the genre.

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