The High Command (4 stars)

The High Command

(PG) 84min

This the first of the nine features made by the brilliant but undervalued British filmmaker Thorold Dickinson may not be a patch on his masterpieces, Gaslight and The Queen of Spades, but this 1936 drama set in colonial West Africa is striking in several ways. The script, based on a novel by Lewis Robinson concerning a general coming to terms with a crime he committed during WWI, isn’t one of them, largely because it incurred problems with the censors over its negative depiction of the military that necessitated awkward rewrites. However, the film’s geo-political authenticity and its sly dig at the British colonial presence (both attributable to Dickinson’s field research and both much admired by his contemporary critic Graham Greene) make up for those shortcomings. Moreover, Dickinson’s skilful way with editing, camerawork and sound are much in evidence and he has a strong cast in Lionel Atwill, Lucie Mannheim and - in his third role - a young James Mason. Extras: introduction by film historian Philip Horne.

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