Warner Brothers’ Stalinist Propaganda Film Screens at BAM Tonight

01/12/2010 12:24 PM |

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The problems of message filmmaking are made clear by the blatant lies of Michael Curtiz’s oddball pro-Soviet Mission to Moscow, produced by Jack Warner at FDR’s direct request. Walter Huston’s performance as a US diplomat to Russia is ingenious for the homespun American spin he gives to every concept, even the illegal bugging of international embassies: “Well, I never say anything outside the Kremlin about Russia that I wouldn’t say to Stalin’s face, do YOU?” But the obvious missteps here (later turned against Warner during the McCarthy hearings) unearth interesting questions about the aesthetics of propaganda in US war films trumpeting strains of patriotism that weren’t later renounced.

After catching this rich oddity on late night TCM last year, blogger The Self Styled Siren (Farran Smith Nehme) wrote, “What the channel needs to do is get this on during hours when there can be an introduction, because if any movie needs context, caveats and discussion, it’s Mission to Moscow.” Her online and in-person dialogue about the film with NY Post critic Lou Lumenick sparked an entire TCM series, running now, that the two critics organized. Both will be there in person when Mission to Moscow screens at BAM tonight, to give it that needed introduction and a thorough going-over.