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In the aftermath of the second World War, in the rubble of Berlin, journalist William L. Shirer details Germany's stunning rise and near domination of the world, before the Third Reich's leader, Adolf Hitler, began making inexplicable and contradictory decisions which led directly the nation's collapse. Shirer reveals a strange tale he was told by a mysterious woman five years after the fall of the Reich: In 1938 in Vienna, three days after the Nazis' entry into Austria, impersonator Janus the Great and his wife Vera perform their popular stage act. That evening, Janus's performance is momentarily halted by the arrival of Adolf Hitler and his entourage, and Vera is mesmerized by the Führer. After the show she receives a personal invitation to dinner from Hitler, which she accepts. When Janus refuses his permission, Vera ignores him. Janus follows his wife and Hitler to a nightclub, but is forcibly ejected by SS guards. When the actor resists, he is arrested and taken to jail and severely beaten. Janus watches in horror as the man in the neighboring cell, Hans Harbach, is brutally and continually tortured by Major Weinrich for information. Later, Harbach tells Janus the rumor that Vera has taken up with Hitler, but Janus refuses to believe him. When Harbach's wife Karla is arrested and beaten in front of him, Harbach breaks down and commits suicide as Janus watches. Shocked and outraged, Janus vows to do everything in his power to destroy Hitler and the Nazis. Janus languishes in jail, but learns of the 1939 German invasion of Poland and the declaration of war by the Allies. One evening, a drunken SS officer, Warden, insists that Janus entertain him and several officers. Janus imitates British Prime Minister Chamberlain, then boldly dresses up as Warden, which delights the drunken officers. Still disguised as Warden, Janus then walks out of the prison. Later, Janus calls Warden, threatening to reveal how he escaped, and demands the German declare that Janus was killed while resisting arrest. In order to provide a realistic scenario, Warden cold-bloodedly kills his aide to have a body to bury. Janus then returns to his stage assistant, Hans. As Germany invades the Low Countries, Janus has Hans teach him valet etiquette. In disguise, the actor assumes the name Karl Vogel and befriends Hitler's valet, Heinrich Wagner. As "Karl," Janus works his way into Hitler's inner circle and has ample opportunity to observe the Führer's physical mannerisms. After the fall of France, Wagner reveals that he longs to visit America and Janus volunteers to fill in. Janus continues studying Hitler as he takes up duties as his valet. One day Janus is startled to run into Vera, who now lives with Hitler. He avoids her gaze and she does not recognize him, although Major Weinrich finds him familiar. As rumors of an impending invasion of Britain spread, Janus poisons Hitler and assumes his identity. He claims Hitler's body is Janus the Great's, implicates Janus in an assassination attempt, and accuses Warden of lying about Janus' death. When the body in Janus' grave is identified as Warden's aide, Warden is executed. With his secret now safe, Janus, as Hitler, wreaks havoc on all war plans in progress. He repeatedly postpones and finally cancels the invasion of Britain, attacks Russia and eventually declares war on America. The German high command, in mounting frustration over his behavior, plots his assassination, which goes awry, resulting in their own executions. Weinrich returns from a long period in Italy and grows suspicious of "Hitler," but when he confronts Janus, Hitler's private guard shoots him, assuming it is another attempt on the Führer's life. As Germany collapses, Berlin is besieged by the Allies and Hitler's bunker is gradually abandoned. Only Vera remains, distressed at Hitler's cool treatment of her, but determined to remain with him. As bombs rain down outside, Janus removes his disguise and reveals himself to Vera. She responds hysterically and flees outside into the bombardment, followed by Janus. Back in the present, Shirer observes that as Hitler's body was never found, the story cannot be confirmed or denied.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 29 Sep 1951|
|Release Date:||1951||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Columbia Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Columbia Pictures Corp.|
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One Great Movie!
Reg Dunkinson 2016-01-14
I saw this movie in 1951. I have never forgotten it. Why? Because it is an intriguing story; the acting is superb;the directing is great. I was 21 at the...
The Magic Face
Greg Buckley 2015-12-08
Great plot; gives real pause as to the reasons Hitler's military choices after early 1941 were so bad!Movie had excellent acting & action as...
the magic face
I saw this film in the 50s sat through it twice was so engrossed with the plot saw it again would love to get a copy on DVD am surprised a film like this...