Jolly Cinema > 18:30


Hugo Fregonese


Wednesday 29/06/2022


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

The central question of Fregonese’s cinema – to stay or to go? – gets a vivid treatment in this unusual approach to the American Civil War, set in a small town in Vermont near the Canadian border where members of a Confederate raiding party, led by Van Heflin’s pensive Major Neal Benton, have infiltrated the local citizenry in preparation for a daring guerilla attack on the local bank. Arriving early to scout out the territory, Benson finds himself being drawn into the community through Katie Bishop (Anne Bancroft), the attractive widow who operates the boarding house where the major is staying in disguise as a Canadian businessman. The embittered major, who had seen his own plantation estate go up in flames in a Union raid, slowly softens as he enters the life of the village, all the while guarding his terrible secret.
Shot largely on a studio backlot street (according to “The Hollywood Reporter”, “the old Gone with the Wind sets out at RKO-Pathé”), The Raid creates a kind of cozy claustrophobia: Lucien Ballard’s cinematography remains bright and cheerful even as the walls close in the central character, leaving the attentive viewer to notice that, as in Apache Drums, the interior sets seem to have no windows. Escape means violence and destruction, as represented by the little glass bottles of nitroglycerine the raiders will use as their principal weapon. There is volatility, too, among the major’s men, notably Lee Marvin as a trigger-happy lieutenant.
Heflin, whose surly interiority often seemed an early manifestation of Method-style acting in Hollywood, delivers a performance of studied ambiguity, his character’s lust for vengeance battling with his affection for the widow, her son, and the quiet life they represent. The temptation of domesticity has perhaps never been so strong in a Fregonese film, yet his hero, true to his restlessness, ultimately opts for escape, leaving the film to end on a striking note of chaos and moral destitution.

Dave Kehr

Cast and Credits

Sog.: Francis M. Cockrell, dal racconto Affair at St. Albans (1947) di Herbert Ravenel Sass. Scen.: Sydney Boehm. F.: Lucien Ballard. M.: Robert Golden. Scgf.: George Patrick. Mus.: Roy Webb. Int.: Van Heflin (maggiore Neal Benton), Anne Bancroft (Katy Bishop), Richard Boone (capitano Lionel Foster), Lee Marvin (tenente Keating), Tommy Rettig (Larry Bishop), Peter Graves (capitano Frank Dwyer), Douglas Spencer (padre Lucas), Paul Cavanagh (colonnello Tucker). Prod.: Robert L. Jacks per Panoramic Productions, Inc. 35mm. D.: 83’.