The River Changes
Cast & Crew
Jaspar V. Oertzen
A remote middle-European village lies close to a river that serves as a natural boundary between two countries. The country on the opposite shore has a totalitarian system of government. Mayram, a young woman from the village, lives with her uncle Jonathan and his wife Leah, who is pregnant. After Jonathan discovers that landslides have clogged the river's source in the mountains, he rides to a military post to acquire some dynamite. While he is away, a severe storm passes through the area, causing a dam to give way and change the course of the river. The village now falls within the boundary of the neighboring country and the villagers are summoned by guards to a meeting in the center of the village. The Leader, a political spokesman for the totalitarian regime, explains that the village is now part of his country and that the villagers will need to be interviewed and registered. When Leah attempts to explain Jonathan's absence to The Leader, his assistant, The Questioner, states that it is illegal to possess dynamite, and suspects Jonathan of being a subversive. At night, when leading villagers hold a meeting to discuss sending someone back across the river to advise their countrymen of what has happened, guards break in, as secret meetings are now prohibited. The next day, all firearms are confiscated and The Leader further harangues the villagers, telling them that their country is decadent and that they will be indocrinated about their new land where the state is supreme. The Leader then orders all food products to be delivered to a central storeroom where they will be rationed, and Mayram's cow is taken and slaughtered. One night, although she has a romantic relationship with young Teman, Mayram keeps a rendezvous with Kurus, one of the guards who has been flirting with her. As they walk by the river, Kurus kisses her and she reveals to him that she moved to the village after her parents were killed in a city that was being bombed. The next day, as the villagers work in the fields, one of them, Aaron, escapes and attempts to cross the river, but is spotted by the guards and killed. The Leader interrogates Aaron's widow, confiscates her house and belongings and assigns her to work as a servant at his headquarters. One night, Jonathan returns, and after learning of the events, volunteers to cross the river as he will not be missed in the official daily roll call. The meeting is again interrupted, however, by guards who arrest Jonathan as he is suspected of being an enemy agent. Jonathan is then interrogated by The Leader and beaten. The next day, The Questioner announces that no one can live within ten miles of the border and all the villagers will have to move or be shot. Asa, one of the village elders, decides that somehow they will all cross the river that night. Leah cannot leave without Jonathan, however, so Mayram flirts with his guard, enabling him to escape. Jonathan takes a rifle, ammunition and a strong rope and heads for the river. Mayram then goes to see her lover, Kurus, and agrees to spend the night with him, thereby distracting him from his duty. Kurus tells her that he is in love with her and promises her a great future in his country. Jonathan swims across the river with the rope, anchors it on both sides and collects the dynamite he brought back. After The Questioner discovers Jonathan has escaped, a search for him is organized. Meanwhile, the exodus begins as the villagers assemble at the crossing point. While Jonathan delays The Leader and guards with dynamite sticks and gunfire, women and children begin to cross the river, holding onto the rope. Kurus runs to help his fellow guards and is about to shoot Jonathan when Mayram picks up a rifle and shoots him. She gives the rifle to the villagers and goes to help Leah, who will not cross without Jonathan. After Teman shoots The Leader, all the villagers make it across the river. The last guard left alive decides not to fire on them and walks away. The villagers are ecstatic to be back in their own land.
Jaspar V. Oertzen
Ilse Ruth Roskam
H. C. Clemmstein
An opening narration states that the film was based on a real occurrence. Owen Crump's credit reads: "Written, Produced and Directed by Owen Crump." A Daily Variety news item of November 5, 1954 reported that "Warners has closed deal with Owen Crump for release of The River Changes, which he currently is finishing in Europe on the fringes of the Iron Curtain....Crump is due back in Hollywood with final footage in about two weeks." None of the actors have discernible local accents and the film appears to have been shot in English, then dubbed by actors other than those who appeared onscreen. According to a February 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, Edith Terry dubbed three roles.
Although the political doctrine of the regime that takes over the village in the story is never specified, as noted in reviews, it resembles a Communistic state. Although press previews for the film were held in February 1956, and it was copyrighted in March 1956, no exact release date has been determined, nor have New York or Los Angeles openings been found.