Review: Raoul Walsh’s “Desperate Journey,” Starring Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan, Errol Flynn, and Arthur Kennedy in
Ronald Reagan, Errol Flynn, and Arthur Kennedy in "Desperate Journey"

A reversal of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s British thriller 49th Parallel, Warner Brothers’ Desperate Journey finds the crew of an allied bomber stranded after crash landing along the border of Germany and occupied Poland. The group (led by Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan) do their best to avoid Nazi soldiers while they find a way to escape back to England—but a villainous Gestapo Major (Raymond Massey, doing a regrettable German accent) hunts them down to the very end. Also featured are Nancy Coleman as a helpful local, Alan Hale as the comic relief of the crew, and Sig Ruman as a bumbling Nazi officer. The top-billed Flynn spent much of the production feuding with Reagan and the filmmakers over which of them had better lines or scenes, apparently to no avail: Reagan makes the strongest impression of the cast, while Flynn practically disappears into the background.1 Director Raoul Walsh and screenwriter Arthur T. Horman get through the story efficiently enough, but it never makes any interesting point about the war while also not light or fun enough to justify itself as “pure entertainment.” Powell and Pressburger would release their own 49th Parallel reversal One of Our Aircraft is Missing a month later in the U.S., and it would strive much more for naturalism than the glossy if entertaining Desperate Journey.

Where to Watch

Buy it on DVD in the TCM Spotlight: Errol Flynn Adventures set

Rent it on Amazon

For More on Desperate Journey

Read the review in The New York Times

Watch the Trailer

References   [ + ]

1. Jay S. Steinberg, “Desperate Journey,” Turner Classic Movies, accessed June 22, 2017.