The Essence of Life

The Essence of Life

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Idle Observations on "MAN HUNT"

The moment of truth?

This week I watched again, repeatedly as I taped in DVR, the movie 1941 film Man Hunt directed by Fritz Lang and starring Walter Pidgeon as main character Captain Alan Thorndike. The film is based on the 1939 novel Rogue Male by George Household and it is a attempt by fictional British big game hunter to perform a "sporting stalk" on the biggest game and most dangerous of all game at the time: Adolf Hitler.

Rogue Male is said to have influenced David Morrell's first novel, the 1972 First Blood, where John Rambo first came to light, and personally I think that Household may have been influenced by Richard Connell's short story The Most Dangerous Game, which is the quintessential man hunt story.

Man Hunt opens with Captain Thorndike stalking the Berghoff and getting ready for a 550 meters (or would that be yards) targeting Adolf Hitler and ends with the same Captain Thorndike being hunted and trapped by Nazi Major Quive-Smith in Dorset.

While the movie is excellent and the story takes place in both Germany and England, the choice of firearms clearly shows that the movie was made in the United States of America and that whoever picked up the guns did not give due consideration to the characters.

The rifle used by Captain Thorndike in the opening scenes just doesn't have the delicate lines, fine engraving and Mauser 98 action that would be expected from a British stalking rifle of the period and which we expected a renowned big game hunter of high birth would use. Although I could not positively identify the rifle it appears to be a Winchester Model 70 including the hooded front sight and a Lyman Model 48 receiver sight, instead of multiple folding leaves express sights or a Rigby style bolt mounted peep sight. The scope is also pure American, a Weaver K2.5 with a detachable slide mount instead of an European design (like a Zeiss) and their highly elaborated mounts.

Shortly after, when Major Quive-Smith and the Doctor go out in their morning hunt expecting to locate Thorndike's body the Doctor is using a side-by-side hammerless shotgun apparently in 12 gauge, where in Bavaria I would expect him to be using a gracious Drilling  with smooth bore barrels chambered in 16 gauge. The biggest disconnect here is Major Quive-Smith using an all too American Savage Model 99 lever action rifle. Neither of the two "Nazi" guns has a scope which we would expect from high class German hunters of the time, and also the social stature, political background and affiliations of Major Quive-Smith would make it unacceptable for him not to use a refined, expensive and exclusive German or Austrian gun.

Later on the film, when Major Quive-Smith traps Captain Thorndike he is using a semi-automatic pistol that I am almost certain to be a Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless. Again, an unusual choice for a high ranking Nazi officer. Either a Walther PP or maybe a Sauer 38H. The Mauser HSc would not be in production until the year after when the story takes place.

Finally, on the final scene when Captain Thorndike parachutes in occupied Europe to resume his hunt, no longer a sporting stalk, he has a Winchester semi-automatic carbine, either a Model 1907 or a Model 1910, strapped to his jump suit, with a Scout-like long eye rifle mounted Weaver K2.5 scope. Well, these Winchester carbines are not a long range hunting, stalking or sniper rifle and would have been a somewhat poor choice for the real big game hunter. Also, intermediate or long eye relief scopes were not commonly available until the mid-1960's with the possible exception of German Zf-41, which again was introduced a couple years after the story takes place.

I am not as idle as it may appear, but I just wanted to write about some inconsequential topic today.


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