Any movie that starts with someone about to assassinate Hitler is a-ok with me, let's dig in!
Thorndyke has multiple clear shots at Hitler, but he doesn't pull the trigger. Then he finally does, and we see he didn't bother to put any bullets in the chamber. What the heck is going on here?
While continuing to lie there, Thorndike is discovered by an SS officer, beaten up, and shortly he is put before Major Quive-Smith (George Sanders), who is a fellow hunter and seems to admire the man. Thorndike reveals that he hunts as a test of skill, not for the kill: he just wanted to prove to himself he could get to Hitler, but didn't actually even intend to shoot him. The Major of course doesn't believe this, and subjects Thorndike to a series of beatings in an attempt to get him to sign a paper saying he is a foreign agent and his goal was assassination. Thorndike refuses, so the Major decides to have him him killed but make it look as though it's an accident to avoid a diplomatic incident (Thorndike's brother being a very well connected diplomat).
But thanks to some blind luck, Thorndike survives and hides out on a Danish ship and is befriended by a cabin boy named Vaner (Roddy McDowall). The Nazis learn Thorndike is alive, and hire an agent named Mr. Jones (John Carradine) to find him. Thorndike is spotted and hides out thanks to the help of a young woman named Jerry Stokes (Joan Bennett), who gives him money to get back to England.
However, Thorndike learns that, thanks to the British government's current policy towards Germany (i.e., appeasement), if he is caught it would become a giant problem for his brother and his home country, Thorndike decides to hide in Africa. But before he can do that, he learns that Jones (as well as Quive-Smith) are on his tail, leading to a great, tense scene in the London Underground:
Other than change of tone mid-stream (pretty much once Bennett enters the picture), Man Hunt is a solid, tense thriller with a lot on its mind. Thorndike is a truly unusual hero, someone not terribly interested in killing Hitler, despite pretty much everyone else in Europe feeling otherwise. He ends up changing his tune of course, and the film ends where it began, another unusual twist.
There are some trademark visual touches courtesy of Lang (whose name in the credits inspired me to watch this in the first place), like the wonderfully ominous Nazi headquarters set:
Man Hunt is available via Netflix Streaming, and it's well worth the time to check it out. It gives you what you expect, plus a lot more.