Newest Reviews
Morfalous, Les
Everything Went Fine
Lux AEterna
Rum Runners
Fairy and the Devil, The
Mad God
Outside the Law
I Remember Mama
Superman Unbound
Lawrence of Belgravia
House Across the Lake, The
Wonder Park
Hornsby e Rodriguez
Operation Mincemeat
5 Kung Fu Daredevil Heroes
Peau Douce, La
Double Indemnity
Na Cha and the Seven Devils
Deep Murder
Superman vs. the Elite
Adam Project, The
Osamu Tezuka's Last Mystery of the 20th Century
Horse, La
Train Robbers, The
Let Sleeping Cops Lie
Funeral, The
Burning Sea, The
Godzilla Singular Point
Ace of Aces
Innocents, The
Beast and the Magic Sword, The
Last Hard Men, The
Found Footage Phenomenon, The
Night Trap
Newest Articles
3 From Arrow Player: Sweet Sugar, Girls Nite Out and Manhattan Baby
Little Cat Feat: Stephen King's Cat's Eye on 4K UHD
La Violence: Dobermann at 25
Serious Comedy: The Wrong Arm of the Law on Blu-ray
DC Showcase: Constantine - The House of Mystery and More on Blu-ray
Monster Fun: Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror on Blu-ray
State of the 70s: Play for Today Volume 3 on Blu-ray
The Movie Damned: Cursed Films II on Shudder
The Dead of Night: In Cold Blood on Blu-ray
Suave and Sophisticated: The Persuaders! Take 50 on Blu-ray
Your Rules are Really Beginning to Annoy Me: Escape from L.A. on 4K UHD
A Woman's Viewfinder: The Camera is Ours on DVD
Chaplin's Silent Pursuit: Modern Times on Blu-ray
The Ecstasy of Cosmic Boredom: Dark Star on Arrow
A Frosty Reception: South and The Great White Silence on Blu-ray
You'll Never Guess Which is Sammo: Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon on Blu-ray
Two Christopher Miles Shorts: The Six-Sided Triangle/Rhythm 'n' Greens on Blu-ray
Not So Permissive: The Lovers! on Blu-ray
Uncomfortable Truths: Three Shorts by Andrea Arnold on MUBI
The Call of Nostalgia: Ghostbusters Afterlife on Blu-ray
Moon Night - Space 1999: Super Space Theater on Blu-ray
Super Sammo: Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son on Blu-ray
Sex vs Violence: In the Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray
What's So Funny About Brit Horror? Vampira and Bloodbath at the House of Death on Arrow
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
  Foreign Affair, A Don't Let's Be Beastly To The Germans
Year: 1948
Director: Billy Wilder
Stars: Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich, John Lund, Millard Mitchell, Peter von Zerneck, Stanley Prager, William Murphy, Raymond Bond, Boyd Davis, Robert Malcolm, Charles Meredith, Michael Raffetto, Damian O'Flynn, Frank Fenton, James Lorrimer
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Congresswoman Phoebe Frost (Jean Arthur) has flown to Berlin with a group of her fellow Congressmen to survey the bomb-blasted city and judge how the morale of the American troops and the local citizenry is shaping up. What she does not know is how the black market in Germany has taken over the entire country as it is the only way to get any decent goods and services, and to make matters worse, the American troops are among those fuelling that commerce, including Captain John Pringle (John Lund). He is making a tidy sum as the purveyor of anything from nylons to alcohol, and when he is presented with a chocolate cake from Frost, he immediately sells it on...

It's a tricky thing, mining humour from the horrors of war and indeed its aftermath, but Billy Wilder was keen to put the lighter side of the post-conflict crisis in Germany across here, with mixed results. Certainly he did not wish international audiences to forget what had happened now the war was over, but you could detect a slight hint of gloating that the nation responsible for almost his entire family being murdered was now on its knees, indeed, barely that, for many of his former countrymen were lying flat on their backs in complete exhaustion. And yet, he appeared to want at least some of them to be depicted in a friendlier light, for he knew not all Germans had been Nazis.

He wasn't, and his old friend Marlene Dietrich had not, which made it curious that he wanted to have her play the ex-partner of a high-ranking Nazi, never mind that her character's own sympathies were a matter of ambiguity. Not so with Marlene, who had campaigned against the fascists during the war, putting on countless shows for Allied soldiers to keep up morale, so much so that millions of the surviving Germans held it against her; it would take more than this movie for them to forgive the iconic actress and singer, which was tied up in reconciling themselves with their grimmer than grim past actions during the Holocaust, which of course meant an awful lot to Wilder on a personal level.

Therefore, there was a lot of mixed feelings around the production of A Foreign Affair, its title suggesting some exotic trifle at a balmy retreat, not a rather grubby romantic comedy among the bomb sites. It was a love triangle that we were dealing with here, with Pringle caught in the middle of Frost, who he basically pursues to get the military police off his back, until actual feelings intervene, and Dietrich's Erika, a nightclub chanteuse who is staving off orders to see to it that she is punished in a labour camp with her connections to the Captain, but may have feelings for him as well. The deep cynicism that would characterise Wilder's dramas like Ace in the Hole was kept at bay to a point by a frothy humour and funning the relationships at the story's centre, but it did not always convince.

For a start, that comedic element was only intermittently amusing enough to generate laughter, and you may ponder that a drama telling it like it was may have been a better goal. Lund was a not-quite star, in that he seemed to be on track for real celebrity yet after a few decent roles it was clear it wasn't happening, wasn't catching on with the public, and he dwindled, and you could tell this film would have been improved with an actor of similar wattage to Arthur and Dietrich. They did not get on while shooting, a rivalry building between them about who was the actual draw here, and as they were both ladies in early middle age, a paranoia about their youth ebbing away meant Wilder had a lot of negotiating to do with each of them to get the effects he wanted. Nevertheless, the scenes they shared together were possibly the best in the movie, going from comedy to a serious lesson about how life in Germany had ended up. If not a complete success, you did have to consider, who else was making stories like this for popular entertainment just after the agonies of the war? For that reason, it holds significant interest. Music by Frederick Hollander.

[The Eureka Blu-ray has these features:

1080p presentation on Blu-ray
Uncompressed LPCM 2.0 audio
Audio commentary by film historian Joseph McBride
From Berlin to Hollywood: Wilder and Dietrich's Foreign Affair - A video essay by Kat Ellinger
Two radio adaptations of A Foreign Affair, broadcast as part of the Screen Directors Playhouse in 1949 and 1951. Featuring the voices of Billy Wilder, Marlene Dietrich, Rosalind Russell, John Lund, and Lucille Ball
Archival interview with Billy Wilder
Theatrical trailer
A collector's booklet featuring new writing by film historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas; a new essay by critic Richard Combs; and archival material.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


This review has been viewed 1701 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
Graeme Clark
Enoch Sneed
Mary Sibley
  Desbris M
  Sheila Reeves
Paul Smith


Last Updated: