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Aventure Malgache (1944)


Main image of Aventure Malgache (1944)
35mm, black and white, French dialogue, 30 mins
DirectorAlfred Hitchcock
Production CompanyPhoenix Films
ForMinistry Of Information
Director of PhotographyGunther Krampf

Cast: Molière Players

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The activities of the French Resistance in Madagascar during World War II, aided by the wily lawyer Clarousse, whose enmity with the local police chief drives his mission.

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Aventure Malgache (originally titled Madagascar Landing) was the second of two French-language propaganda shorts that Alfred Hitchcock made for the Ministry of Information.

The subject came out of his experience writing Bon Voyage, where every line of the script was scrutinised by French government representatives. Their various disagreements made Hitchcock realise that the Resistance were anything but unanimous in terms of what they wanted to achieve, and decided to make this the subject of the follow-up film.

Although much less immediately entertaining than Bon Voyage, and requiring a fair degree of background knowledge to fully appreciate its nuances, Aventure Malgache is in many ways even more interesting than its companion in showing both how unsuited Hitchcock was to making propaganda and his inability to resist subverting the subject at hand.

This is initially shown in the framing device - backstage at the performance of a play presumably intended as the kind of morale-booster that Hitchcock's films were supposed to be. Like Bon Voyage, much of the film is told in flashback, which raises questions about the story's authenticity (did this really happen, or is it heavily embellished by the narrator Clarousse?)

The film is full of sly jokes about the French situation, making fun not only of the Vichy collaborators who sided with Hitler (personified by Jean Michel), but also the stereotypical Frenchman who gives away vital information to his girlfriend. Rather more seriously, the film also shows just how much the Resistance had been infiltrated by spies and Nazi collaborators.

Where the film really offended the powers that be was in its explicit depiction of the French attitude towards the British, which is shown as being suspicious at best and downright hostile at worst, at one point referring to how they "stole" the West Indies and Canada from the French. Aligning with the British is shown as the "least worst" option rather than something especially desirable.

While this is almost certainly an accurate account of the French mindset, it was hardly surprising that the Ministry of Information felt that this slant was unhelpful in a propaganda film, and as a result Aventure Malgache was shelved for nearly fifty years. It was eventually released in a double bill with Bon Voyage in 1993.

As with the earlier film, the cast remained anonymous for the sake of their families in occupied France, and were collectively credited as 'The Molière Players'.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
1. Courtroom drama (2:10)
2. I must have proof (1:33)
3. Clarousse's secret (2:07)
Bon Voyage (1944)
Bernstein, Sidney (1899-1993)
Hitchcock, Alfred (1899-1980)
MacPhail, Angus (1903-1962)
Welwyn Studios
Hitchcock at War