Thursday, October 4, 2012

Swit and Tears: "Miracle at Moreaux" (1986)

Loretta Swit fights Nazis and typecasting in this mild family film.

Swit is Sister Gabrielle, a nun running a school for children in the French countryside. The kids are not orphans, but their parents have sent them to the school to escape the bombings. Three Jewish children are being lead to the Spanish border when their guide breaks into the school to steal food. He is caught by some visiting Nazi soldiers and killed, and Sister Gabrielle pretends the one lone child she does find, Anna (Marsha Moreau), is one of her students. Anna's brother Daniel (Robert Kosoy) and friend Sabine (Talya Rubin) come out of hiding and are given sanctuary in the school.

The students don't know what to make of the mysterious trio, especially Dominique (Carla Napier), who repeats the Nazi rumors she has heard about Jews and their religion. The villains are a sympathetic Sergeant Schlimmer (Ken Pogue), who misses his own daughter, and the young Major Braun (Robert Joy), who knows the children are at the school.

The children must be at a certain spot in order to be led across the border, and Sister Gabrielle and the other kids come up with a plan involving doubles and the upcoming Christmas pageant.

"Miracle at Moreaux" is touted as a "family feature film," but only runs fifty-eight minutes. It was shot for the PBS series "Wonderworks," and it is obviously made for children in mind. There is nothing here that would be too upsetting, except hearing about the fate of Sabine's family.

What is here, however, is rather mild. This was shot in Canada, and the cast is tiny. The school, the surrounding woods, and the Nazi office are the only settings. Without any sort of edge and very little threat, the final escape sequence is almost too easy. I am not sure if this was based on a true story, but read the wordy writing credits that show up onscreen: Written by Paul Shapiro and Jeffrey Cohen/ Based on a teleplay by Bob Carney/ From a script by Ellen Schecter/ Adapted from the book "Twenty and Ten" Written by Claire Huchet Bishop Illustrated by William Pene du Bois". Not enough makes it to the screen for so many hands in the creation.

"Miracle at Moreaux" is a very mild little effort full of mild little performances. It is not bad, it is not uplifting, it merely sits there, much like the video on my local library's shelf. (* * *) out of five stars.