Nazi scientists up to no good again…will they never learn?
SYNOPSIS: Three Nazi war criminals have escaped from a British prison. One of them, the biologist Dr Brucker, meets with a contact in London and it is arranged for him to assume the place of an Australian scientist named Dr. Forrester. Brucker intercepts Forrester at his hotel and kills him, allowing him to travel as Dr Forrestor to his new post at a university where he is assigned to conduct research. His plans however, are to develop an immunisation against a new plague that the Nazis are planning to use on the rest of the world in order to conquer it. The only thing that keeps getting in Brucker’s way is the suspicions of fellow researcher Dr Rankin and his unexpected new assistant Tracy Hart…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Counterblast is a 1948 British Thriller that focuses on an escaped Nazi criminal as he tries to develop a vaccine for a new plague the Nazis wish to use to take over the world. The story centres around three main characters, with the Nazi doctor being one of them, alongside Dr Rankin, another researcher at the university, and Tracy Hart, Brucker’s (unexpected) assistant. Everything mostly centres on Brucker however, and his dastardly plot. he is played as a very cold and distant person and is well acted. He is obviously set up as the villain (being a Nazi and all), but his work is to develop a vaccine for a new plague instead of actually creating the disease, and the fact he just wants to use science to the advantage of evil is his grave error. Never does Brucker ever falter in his goal, and has seemingly little remorse for anything he does or who he kills in order to achieve his goal. At the very end of the film, we see him question what he has to do when it conflicts with his own feelings, and it does round off the film in a more interesting and complex way, even if it does come a little from nowhere. The other subplot of the relationship between Dr. Rankin and Tracy isn’t really anything special, and the way it is conducted really feels outdated and unconvincing, so there’s nothing to really say about that, apart from I don’t think it really makes much difference to the dynamic of the story.
Being released in 1948, Counterblast came out at a time when the world was still recovering from WWII, and no doubt memories of it would have been raw. Because of this, I suppose the film doesn’t take too many risks and doesn’t roll out any Nazi imagery or focus too much on anything specific: It sets up the Nazis as the villains and that’s about it…not that they need establishing as a villain at all, so there is very little effort made to do so; there are no swastikas, Nazi uniforms, bad German accents (not many anyway…) or any similar imagery. The film is not really about big wars and saving the world though, it’s a thriller that is character driven, and all the action is centred around the little world of the three main characters. There are a smaller selection of minor characters that are written very effectively, and add an extra dimension to the plot, but nothing overly spectacular about any of them really comes to mind, but they do add a little variety into the mix, and produce rare moments of drama or even comedy, which makes a nice change of pace, as the film is very slow sometimes, and it needs something to help keep viewers interested during these downtimes. As the story focuses on the characters, there is a problem with Dr. Rankin (the closest thing to a protagonist in the film) constantly comes off as unlikeable and a bit creepy, which muddles the line between the focused and hardworking villain and the sometimes obnoxious hero.
This is not a high budget production: There are no fancy sets or props to be found anywhere. It obviously looks outdated, but that is not really due to the limitations of budget. The sets are all filled with detail and look convincing as living and working environments, and the film really seems to make the most of what it has, even if it is never really ambitious in its execution. Counterblast offers a view on Nazis, science and chemical warfare from a world emerging from the end of a war, but it never really does anything noteable. It makes the Nazis the villain seemingly out of convenience and never does anything with it. There are odd moments of suspense and drama which add up to a decent thriller, and the portrayal of Dr. Brucker brings in an interesting dimension to the ins and outs of the plot, but overall, the film doesn’t really set itself apart from others.