Between Two Worlds

An exceptionally vivid and detailed dream brought about by gas in a suicide attempt curtailed by the Blitz.

The substance of it is analyzed by Cocteau in Orphée, the style as well a number of times by Serling et al. on The Twilight Zone.

Death and judgment are the sum of it, so well worked out that eternity seems a fine and pleasant place for some, a private torture for the damned.

Critics led by Bosley Crowther (New York Times) have been variously absurd about it, carping at this and that, they would indeed rather be in Philadelphia, their idea of it anyway. Variety took in the film much more gratefully, describing it as “artistic”.

“The dead shall live, the living die,” a Viennese musician (Paul Henreid) shell-shocked from serving with the Free French tries to book passage from England in 1944 but has no exit permit, the wife (Eleanor Parker) he is unable to support follows him frantically, a carload of passengers en route to the docks are struck and killed by a Nazi bomb, he returns to his flat and turns on the gas, she joins him there, pleading, and they are on an ocean liner with the dead passengers and a steward (Edmund Gwenn), and presently an examiner (Sydney Greenstreet).

The other personages are briefly delineated at the shipping office, a newspaperman, a nabob, an actress, an Irishwoman, a well-to-do English couple, a sailor in the U.S. Merchant Marine, a clergyman.

The cast (which includes George Coulouris, Sara Allgood and Isobel Elsom) would make anyone sit up and take notice, but many reviewers summed it up as a curate’s egg.

The meaning of the war is practically from T.S. Eliot, “the dove descending breaks the air...”

The curious thing is that Variety and Crowther agree on one point, “no comedy relief”, though John Garfield as the newspaperman laughs at how funny it is, and George Tobias as the sailor is quite comical, among other things. The hocus-pocus of the script is fearful to some, despite the satire or because of it.

The Warner Brothers style is intensified in a way by Mark Hellinger as producer and Erich Wolfgang Korngold supplying the music.