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Undefeated, The (1950)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

The narrator, his face unshown, arrives at his place of work, the Ministry of Pensions headquarters in Central London. He makes his way to his office, passing staff members and disabled war veterans. He recalls the case of Joe Anderson, a glider pilot who lost both legs and the power of speech during the Rhine Crossing.

Joe and his co-pilot, Lofty, are waved off by friends and colleagues as they take off from the aerodrome bound for Germany. Ten weeks later, Joe arrives at Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton on a stretcher. His plane, like many in that mission, has been shot down. Both his legs are amputated; he has also lost the power of speech through shock. Medical staff carry him to the rehabilitation unit, where he is helped to try on artificial legs.

Encouraged by the staff and fellow patients, Joe makes steady physical progress, but he is emotionally traumatised by his experiences, and has difficulty in sleeping. The rehabilitation regime is strict and staff do not show sympathy, only encouragement, as patients are trained to meet the challenges they will face in the outside world. Although Joe has not yet regained his speech, he is ready to leave Roehampton. He bids farewell to the staff and returns home with his wife. After a few weeks he is called into the regional Ministry of Pensions office in North London, where his progress is monitored by doctors and welfare officers. Pensioners are shown leading active lives, working as farmers, postmen, shopkeepers or gardeners. Paraplegics play wheelchair basketball, while other pensioners take part in a motorcar rally. The doctor suggests that finding a job might help restore some of Joe's self confidence. Joe is offered an office job in a nearby factory.

A blind pensioner speaks at a Pension Advisory Committee meeting, the aim of which is to improve services for pensioners. Soon after Joe has started his new job he has another appointment at the regional pensions office. After a medical examination, he joins the doctor in the canteen for a cup of tea. To his surprise, waiting for him is Lofty, who he had thought dead. Joe experiences a flashback, remembering how they were both trapped beneath debris. The shock of seeing his friend alive restores his ability to speak.

Joe goes on to become a Ministry of Pensions Welfare Officer - and, it is revealed, the film's anonymous narrator.