“Five commandos… shattering heaven and earth as they battered and blasted their way to Berlin and back! A once-in-a-lifetime adventure for them—and for the screen!”

Ronald Reagan and the always-charming Errol Flynn play British Air Force pilots who crash their bomber behind enemy lines. Their harrowing escape from Nazi Germany makes for a constantly entertaining adventure, replete with car chases, explosions, manly camaraderie and a sympathetic Fräulein. Desperate Journey is a strong specimen of a Hollywood war film made while the war was still raging.

Desperate Journey by Raoul Walsh (USA, 1942, 107 min.).

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Describing his early career, Reagan once called himself the “B-Movie Errol Flynn.” This reputation would change in 1942, when he rode the success of King’s Row (released earlier that year) to land a starring role in Desperate Journey. After years of playing supporting roles in mediocre films, Reagan was now sharing the spotlight with Flynn in a top-grossing picture and poised to sign a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers.

In Desperate Journey we see Reagan in top form, filled with the zeal of new success. He shows off his acting chops in an exhaustively rehearsed scene where his character uses fast nonsense-talk to confuse a befuddled Nazi general. But filming was disrupted when Reagan, an air force reservist, was called away to duty; some scenes had to be filmed using a double and some creative camera work. Thanks to the legal team at Warner Brothers, who pulled strings on behalf of their new asset, Reagan was stationed in San Francisco for an administrative position and never served overseas.