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The Forgotten: A Glass Eye for Hitler

Elsa Lanchester as an indestructible cleaning woman travels to Berlin to kill Hitler in an insane WWII propaganda flick..
David Cairns
Ray McCarey's Passport to Destiny (1944) is part of a curious sub-sub-genre of WWII propaganda movies about assassinating Hitler. In Hitler: Dead of Alive (1942), the hit squad actually succeed in taking the dictator out, though the plot is arranged so that the result is not an Inglourious Basterds-style counter-factual.
The striking thing about McCarey's entry in this tiny field is...well, it's an essentially indifferent movie entirely composed of striking things. [Deep breath.]
Elsa Lanchester plays Mrs. Muggins, a cockney washerwoman who discovers's the magical glass eye her late husband brought back from India which is supposed to bestow indestructibility (he was flattened by a tram one day when he happened not to have the trinket about his person) and so she naturally enough heads off to Germany to kill the Führer, getting a job mopping floors in the Reich Chancellery, pretending to be deaf-mute to avoid exposing her lack of German.
It's Elsa's only top-billed feature role; she plays it full-on cockney and doesn't leave any spare comedy laying about. Around ten years after Bride of Frankenstein, she's still beautiful in a mad way. The photo of her departed spouse depicts Charles Laughton, her offscreen hubbie, in a pith helmet.
Double-bill it with The Shape of Water because there just aren't enough movies about deaf cleaners in government buildings.
Ray McCarey was Leo McCarey's younger brother, who caught onto Leo's coattails and didn't let go. Despite being dismissed by colleagues at the Roach Studios as "not creative like Leo" he did make it from shorts to B-pictures, of which this one is maybe the craziest. He killed himself four years later (particularly shocking given the McCarey family's staunch Catholicism).
Unlike too many movies with bizarro plots, this one is actually decently made and delivers its bonkers premise efficiently. Yet Hitler never appears, and the happy ending is that Elsa and the Resistance friends she makes escape back to England in a stolen German plane, the big mission forgotten in all the fuss. Elsa is just plotting to go back again to take care of unfinished business when she learns that the magic eye was a phony all along and she's been millimetres from death for the entire last month.
Hasty fade-out. Wait, what?
The Forgotten is a fortnightly column by David Cairns, author of Shadowplay. 


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