The High Command (1936) is a movie that, to be honest I hadn’t really heard of prior but yet it was in the collection. A relatively unknown actor of the time, James Mason, makes a good showing here and it was his presence in the cast which really made this of interest, even though he isn’t the main character. Rather, as would befit his long career he provides strong support for the main character, General Sir John Sangye (Lionel Atwill).
Atwill gives a strong performance in what is a rather pedestrian production. Being a British production, it does fit the sterotypical view of the genre, being insanely talky. Mason, atypically, does not perform overly well, appearing stiff and a bit uncomfortable.
Being based on Lewis Robinson’s novel The General Goes Too Far, The High Command perhaps could have used another rewrite before hitting the big screen. It still seems a bit novelish, some of which simply doesn’t as expected translate well. Some of the plot points, which revolves around a decorated General (Atwill) and the challenging, questionable, and in some cases illegal decisions he is forced to make in defense of his daughter, are hard to follow.
Unfortunately, the average viewer isn’t likely to rewatch the film to figure out all the nuances of the plot. Although not a terribly bad film, The High Command isn’t terribly good either. It is a great piece of ‘what could have been’ as there is much potential left on the floor so to speak.
Filmed at least partially on location in Africa, the exteriors are a bonus in what otherwise is a pedestrianly shot picture. Thorold Dickinson, in his first feature directoral effort is rather lackluster.
Not overly recommended but good for those who would like to see an extremely young James Mason, even if quite uncomfortable. Viewers beware, there is a scene of Mason in a vintage 1936 swimsuit.