Counterblast

Tagged: Film

Film (1948; vt Devil's Plot US). British National Films/Pathé Pictures Ltd. UK/Herbert Bregstein US. Produced by Louis H Jackson. Directed by Paul L Stein. Written by Jack Whittingham from a story by Guy Morgan. Cast includes Robert Beatty, Anthony Eustrel, Mervyn Johns and Nova Pilbeam. 90 minutes. Black and white.

1948: Nazi bacteriologist Dr Bruckner (Johns), "The Beast of Ravensbruck", escapes from a POW camp with two colleagues. He murders Australian Dr Forrester (Eustrel), then proceeds to London where he supposedly begins research on cures for various diseases. In fact, with help from a Nazi underground, he is working to perfect biological warfare agents (and defensive vaccines against them) for use in a future World War Three. Forrester's niece Tracy Hart (Pilbeam) arrives unexpectedly to become his assistant. Gradually, growing suspicions about Bruckner by Dr Paul Rankin (Beatty) and eventually Tracy herself lead to the unravelling of Bruckner's plot. With concluding grim irony, Bruckner is killed in the hold of a ship in which he has hidden when it is fumigated.

This may have been the first post-World War Two film to deal with biological warfare, though modern audiences will find it slow-moving and lacking in suspense; no attempt is made in the film to actually release a biological agent. US distributor Bregstein changed the title to Devil's Plot as a ploy to draw people to movie theatres since the film had been sold to television as Counterblast. The contemporary production it most closely resembles is The Whip Hand (1951), a better film despite gaps in logic. [GSt]

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