This story about an American family that takes in an orphaned Hitler Youth has all the subtlety of a sledge hammer. I enjoyed it anyway.
Dr. Mike Frame (Fredric March), a widower, lives with his spinster sister Jessie (Agnes Moorehead) and daughter Pat. He is in love with Pat’s progressive schoolteacher Leona Richards (Betty Field) and early on they get engaged. Into their midst Mike brings nephew Emil Bruckner. Bruckner’s father was killed in a concentration camp for his anti-Fascist views and Emil’s mother died thereafter. Everyone, especially Pat, is excited by this new addition to the family.
But Emil turns out to be a committed Nazi. Leona is Jewish and he does every vile thing possible to sabotage her relationship with Mike. He starts teaching his classmates sabotage and military techniques and to search for Mike’s top secret lab results. Added to that he is a violent thug without a shred of gratitude in his heart and a positive menace to all he encounters.
Mike and Leona try psychology on him to no avail. When his rage leads him to attempted murder, Mike’s patience is at an end.
This movie in other hands would be terrible. It is not, primarily due to some great performances. Skip Homeier, as the boy, is over the top but truly scary. March, Moorehead, and Field are all wonderful. This seem to be the year in which Field would break out of her bad girl roles. The story would be pulpy if it weren’t so intellectual but it is deliciously so. Maybe this is the kind of thing it works best to heighten beyond all realism.