Undercover (1943 film)

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Undercover (1943 film)
Undercover FilmPoster.jpeg
2010 DVD release cover
Directed by Sergei Nolbandov
Produced by Sir Michael Balcon
S. C. Balcon
Screenplay by John Dighton
Monja Danischewsky
Sergei Nolbandov (uncredited)
Milosh Sekulich (uncredited)
Story by George Slocombe
Milosh Sekulich (uncredited)
Sergei Nolbandov (uncredited)
Starring John Clements
Mary Morris
Michael Wilding
Stephen Murray
Tom Walls
Stanley Baker
Godfrey Tearle
Music by Frederic Austin
Cinematography Wilkie Cooper
Edited by Eileen Bolan
Production
company
Release dates
  • 27 July 1943 (1943-07-27) (UK)
Running time 80 min
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Undercover is a major 1943 war film produced by Ealing Studios in London, originally titled Chetnik. It was filmed in Wales and released on July 27, 1943. The subject was the Yugoslav guerrilla movement in German-occupied Yugoslavia loosely based on the Draza Mihailovich resistance movement. The movie was produced by Sir Michael Balcon and directed by Sergei Nolbandov. It starred John Clements as Milosh Petrovitch, Mary Morris as Anna Petrovitch, his wife, Stephen Murray as Stephan Petrovitch, his brother, Michael Wilding as Constantine, and Stanley Baker as Petar. The movie was re-released in the United States in 1944 by Columbia Pictures under the title Underground Guerrillas. The Ealing movie was similar to the 20th Century Fox wartime film Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas (1943) made in the U.S. The plot revolves around a resistance movement that emerges in Yugoslavia after the German invasion in 1941. The guerrillas are able to blow up trains, engage in sabotage, and to battle German troops. In the final scene, the guerrillas are shown going into the Serbian mountains to continue their resistance struggle until the German forces are driven out of the country. The movie was released on DVD on January 25, 2010 by Optimum Home Entertainment in the UK.

Cast[edit]

1944 U.S. release movie poster, Columbia Pictures.

Plot[edit]

The film is based on the Yugoslav resistance movement under the command of General Draza Mihailovich. But politics overtook the situation because Mihailovich and the Royalists were about to be abandoned and betrayed by the British government - as parts of the Chetnik movement co-operated with the Nazis - in favor of the Communist and Stalinist leader Josip Broz Tito at the time. Speaking in the British Parliament on February 22, 1944, the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, said: “General Mihailovic, I much regret to say, drifted gradually into position where his commanders made accommodations with Italian and German troops…”

The screenplay, by John Dighton and Monja Danischewsky, was accordingly amended and the movie re-edited. It was a black and white war movie, 80 minutes in length, that focused on the Petrovitch family in Belgrade, Serbia. One brother, Captain Milosh Petrovitch, a Yugoslav military officer, played by John Clements, emerges as a Serbian guerrilla who forms an anti-Nazi resistance movement in the mountains of Serbia. The other brother, Dr. Stephan Petrovitch, played by Stephen Murray, is a physician in the Belgrade Municipal Hospital who acts as a quisling or collaborator to obtain information for the guerrillas. German General von Staengel, played by Godfrey Tearle, does not suspect that Stephan is an undercover agent for the Serbian guerrillas.

Using information obtained by Stephan, the guerrillas are able to ambush a German train and to free Yugoslav POWs, wound General Staengel, and to blow up a strategic railway tunnel in the mountains. In retaliation, German troops under Colonel von Brock, played by Robert Harris, execute six Serbian schoolchildren in retaliation and as a lesson. Anna Petrovitch, Milosh's wife, is taken prisoner by German forces and interrogated. She escapes and rejoins Milosh in the mountains.

Stephan manages to plant explosives on a train which he sets to go off in a mountain tunnel. His father Kossan, played by Tom Walls, is captured by German troops and placed on the train to deter an attack. Stephan and Kossan are both killed when the explosives go off and destroy the train and the tunnel. In retaliation, Staengel orders that "one hundred Yugoslavs for every German" will be killed and orders retaliatory strikes against the Serbian guerrillas.

The climax is a pitched battle between the Germans and the guerrillas. The Serbian guerrillas defeat the German troops and retreat into the mountains to continue the guerrilla war against Axis occupation forces.

1944 Columbia Pictures lobby card for the U.S. release as Underground Guerrillas.

Production team[edit]

  • Director: Sergei Nolbandov
  • Producer: Sir Michael Balcon
  • Associate Producer: S.C. Balcon
  • Script: John Dighton, Monja Danischewsky, Sergei Nolbandov (uncredited), and Milosh Sekulich (uncredited). Based on a story by George Slocombe, Milosh Sekulich (uncredited), and Sergei Nolbandov (uncredited)
  • Cinematography: Wilkie Cooper
  • Art Direction: Duncan Sutherland
  • Editing: Eileen Boland
  • Supervising Editor: Sidney Cole
  • Special Effects: Roy Kellino
  • Technical Advisors: Milosh Sekulich, W.E. Hart
  • Music: Frederic Austin

Sources[edit]

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  • Barr, Charles. (1974). "Projecting Britain and the British Character: Ealing Studios, Part II." Screen, 15(2), pages 129-163.
  • Milosh Sekulich Papers at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) Library, University College, London, UK. Web link: http://www.ssees.ac.uk/archives/sek/sek3.htm
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  • "Liberty for the Chetniks." Master Comics, Captain Marvel Jr., #14, February 24, 1942. Quality Comics.
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  • Heydenau, Friedrich. The Wrath of the Eagles: A Novel of the Chetniks. Translated by June Barrows Massey. NY: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1943.
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  • Creasey, John. The Valley of Fear. London: John Long, 1943. Doctor Palfrey joins the Chetniks. Reprinted under the title The Perilous Country, 1949, 1966, 1967, and 1973 in the U.S. by Walker and Co.
  • St. John, Robert. "Balkan Supermen. Wrath of the Eagles: A Novel of the Chetniks. By Frederick Heydenau." Translated by Barrows Mussey. 318 pp. New York: E.P. Dutton& Co. $2.50. New York Times, Book Review, Sunday, June 27, 1943, page BR6.
  • Tabori, Paul. The Ragged Guard, A Tale of 1941. London: Hodder & Stoughton Limited, 1942.
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  • Undercover on the citwf database: http://www.citwf.com/film365195.htm
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  • Ove, Torsten. "93-year-old's WWII feats are hidden no longer." Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, Sunday, November 23, 2008.
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  • Seaman, Mark. Special Operations Executive: A New Instrument of War. London, UK: Routledge, 2006.
  • Deroc, Milan. British Special Operations Explored: Yugoslavia in Turmoil, 1941-1943, and the British Response. Boulder, CO: East European Monographs/New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.
  • Howarth, Patrick. Undercover: The Men and Women of the Special Operations Executive. London: Routledge, 1980.
  • Hamrick, S.J. Deceiving the Deceivers. Yale University Press, 2004.
  • Tosevic, Dimitri J. Third Year of Guerilla. Toronto, Canada: The Periscope Publishing Company, 1943.
  • Pribichevich, Stoyan. World Without End: The Saga of Southeastern Europe. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939.
  • Yovitchitch, Lena. Within Closed Frontiers: A Woman in Wartime Yugoslavia. London and Edinburgh: Chambers, 1956.
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  • Trew, Simon C. Britain, Mihailovic and the Chetniks, 1941-42. St. Martin's Press, 1997.
  • Petrovitch, Svetislav. Free Yugoslavia Calling. Introduction by the Hon. Fiorello H. LaGuardia. NY: The Greystone Press, 1941.
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  • Kurapovna, Marcia. Shadows on the Mountain: The Allies, the Resistance, and the Rivalries that Doomed World War II Yugoslavia. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2009.

External links[edit]