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Passport to Destiny

August 16, 2010

Slide for Passport to Destiny (1944)
Slide for Passport to Destiny (1944)

Motion picture advertisements are supposedly designed to give you just enough information to lure you to see the picture but not so much that it gives it all away.  When I first encountered the slide for Passport to Destiny with all of its fine-print I thought it would be the perfect example of a slide that tells too much, but after reading the synopsis I came to realize that it merely scratches the surface.

Paraphrasing liberally from TCM's synopsis, the film goes something like this: 

Lobby card for Passport to Destiny (1944)
Lobby card for Passport to Destiny (1944)

London scrubwoman Ella Muggins (who achieved cinematic immortality as the Bride of Frankenstein) reminisces about her late husband, Sergeant Major Albert Muggins, a spinner of tall tales. Then while cleaning the attic one day, Ella opens a trunk and finds the magic eye that her husband claimed would protect its bearer from all harm. Ella remains skeptical about the powers of the eye until it "saves her life" during an air raid.

Convinced that the eye will render her invincible, Ella decides to go to Berlin and assassinate Hitler. Carrying her washbucket, Ella stows away onboard a ship bound for the continent. Forced to abandon ship when the vessel is attacked by German bombers, Ella and the crew board a lifeboat and paddle across the English Channel. When they land, German soldiers arrest the crew, but Ella hides in the bottom of the boat and escapes capture. Posing as a deaf and dumb cleaning woman, Ella scrubs her way across the continent to Germany.

On a train bound for Berlin, she overhears a conversation between Franz Von Weber, a German officer, and his uncle Frederick Hausmeister. When Frederick warns Franz, a member of the underground, that his sweetheart Grete has been imprisoned for her political activities, Franz vows to free her. Upon arriving in Berlin, Ella follows Hitler's guards to his headquarters and, posing as a deaf and dumb charwoman, she wins the sympathy of the officers and is awarded a job. When Ella overhears Karl Dietrich, the German commandant, discussing Grete's imprisonment in the Mobic jail, she passes the information to Franz by writing the words "Grete-Mobic" with a bar of soap on the floor. Curious, Franz waits for Ella to leave work that day, and when he hears her singing, he approaches her.  Ella informs Franz that his sweetheart is being held at the Mobic jail and gives him her magic eye for protection, imploring him to return it to her later that night.

 At the prison, Franz orders that Grete be released into his custody, and Dietrich instructs his men to comply. Hoping that Franz will lead them to other members of the underground, Dietrich orders him followed. The soldiers trail him to Ella's room, where he asks her to use the magic eye to secure some travel permits. After Franz arranges for his uncle to pick up the permits at headquarters, Ella borrows his gun to shoot Hitler. The next day, Ella is watched by Dietrich and Lord  George Haw Haw, a British traitor who has been broadcasting German propaganda into England. After stealing the permits, Ella passes them to Frederick, who is promptly arrested by the gestapo.

 To trap Ella, Dietrich removes the guards from Hitler's door, luring her into his office. Inside the office, Ella rehearses her plan to kill Hitler, which is overheard on the intercom by Dietrich. When Lord Haw Haw enters the office to beg Ella to help him escape from Germany, Dietrich appears and confronts them. After Dietrich's men disarm Ella, she is taken to his office for questioning. There she is joined by Frederick, Franz and Grete, who have also been arrested. After confiscating Ella's lucky eye, Dietrich begins to interrogate Franz. Taunting Ella about the silly superstitions of the English, Dietrich contemptously returns the eye. At that moment, British bombers attack. In the raid, Frederick is killed, but Ella, Franz and Grete escape and speed to the airport, where Franz hijacks a plane and flies them to London. Ella is hailed as a hero and is interviewed by the press. Asked by the reporters where she found the magic eye, Ella takes them to the attic, and when she opens the trunk, she discovers a box full of eyes.

I guess I no longer feel like they crammed too much into the slide.  What amazes more is how they crammed this much plot into a 65 minute movie!