|Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas|
|Directed by||Louis King|
|Produced by||Bryan Foy|
Sol M. Wurtzel
|Written by||Jack Andrews (story)|
|Screenplay by||Jack Andrews|
Edward E. Paramore Jr.
|Story by||Jack Andrews|
|Music by||Hugo Friedhofer|
|Edited by||Alfred Day|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
It was originally titled The Seventh Column and was directed by Louis King based on a story by Jack Andrews, who also co-wrote the screenplay. The film was produced by Sol M. Wurtzel and Bryan Foy. The film was announced in Boxoffice magazine in the May 30, 1942 issue: "'The Seventh Column,' a story based on exploits of General Dra?a Mihailovi?, Yugoslav guerilla leader." The movie appears in the American Film Institute (AFI) catalogue for American feature films made between 1941-1950.
The movie was advertised in an original print ad as follows:
"Announcing -- The most stirring picture released this year! Thrill follows thrill in this living drama...that flames out of today's electrifying headlines! This very moment...a Nazi troop train is being destroyed...! Live, love, fight with Draja Mihailovitch and his fighting guerrillas."
In the opening scene, German troops and tanks are shown invading the Kingdom of Yugoslavia while bombers attack the capital Belgrade. When Nazi Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria invade Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, Serbian army colonel Dra?a Mihailovi? forms a band of guerrillas known as the Chetniks, who launch a resistance movement against the Axis occupation. Mihailovi?'s forces then engage in an attack on the German and Italian forces, forcing them to employ seven Axis divisions against them.
The Chetniks capture an Italian supply convoy. Mihailovi? then radios the German headquarters in the nearby coastal town of Kotor in Montenegro and offers to exchange Italian POWs for gasoline. Infuriated, General Von Bauer refuses, but when Mihailovi? threatens to notify the Italian High Command of his decision, Gestapo colonel Wilhelm Brockner orders Von Bauer to comply.
Brockner, who has been unable to capture Mihailovi?, is convinced that the Yugoslav leader's wife Ljubica and their two children, Nada and Mirko, are hiding in Kotor. He plans to use them as hostages to blackmail Mihailovi? into surrendering. Brockner warns the townspeople that anyone caught aiding the Mihailovi? family will be executed, and prepares the deportation of 2,000 men from Kotor to Nazi Germany.
Brockner's secretary Natalia, however, is a spy for the Chetniks and is in love with Alexa, one of Mihailovi?'s aides. Forewarned by Natalia's information, the Chetniks attack the train transporting the two thousand prisoners and free them. In retaliation, Brockner decrees that no food will be distributed to the citizens of Kotor until Lubitca and her children are turned over to the Germans. Lubitca tries to surrender to Brockner but is stopped by Natalia, after which Mihailovi? asks to meet with Von Bauer and Brockner.
After Mihailovi? arrives at German headquarters, however, Von Bauer declares that, since the official Yugoslav government had capitulated, international law does not prevent him from killing Mihailovi?, even though they are meeting under a flag of truce. Mihailovi? then reveals to the general that the Chetniks are holding his wife and daughter as hostages, as well as Brockner's mistress, and that they will be executed unless the citizens of Kotor are given food. The general angrily releases Mihailovi? and provides rations for Kotor.
Mihailovi?'s son Mirko, demonstrating his patriotism, betrays his true identity to his German schoolteacher. After taking Mirko into custody, Von Bauer and Brockner escort Ljubica to Mihailovi?'s mountain stronghold and then inform him that every man, woman, and child in Kotor would be executed unless the Chetniks surrender within 18 hours.
Mihailovi? informs Ljubica that he cannot surrender. She then returns to Kotor to comfort their children. Mihailovi? immediately organizes a plan of attack and sends some of his men to the mountain pass to Kotor, where they trick the Germans into thinking that they are surrendering, while the rest of the Chetniks attack the town from the mountains on the other side.
Even though Aleksa, who was assigned to infiltrate the German artillery battery, is taken prisoner by the Germans, Mihailovi?'s plan succeeds. After an intense battle, the Chetniks gain control of Kotor and free all of the hostages, including Mihailovi?'s family.
In the final scene, Mihailovi? broadcasts a radio message to his fellow Yugoslavs that the guerrillas will continue fighting until they have regained complete freedom for their people and driven out the invading Axis troops.
The New York Times reviewed the movie favorably on March 19, 1943 after it was shown in New York at the Globe in a review by "T.M.P.", Thomas M. Pryor. Pryor wrote that the movie was "splendidly acted" and that it had "the right spirit".
Hal Erickson of All Movie Guide (AMG) reviewed the movie favorably also, describing how Dra?a Mihailovi? was vindicated and exonerated by events after the war. Erickson wrote that the movie portrayed Dra?a Mihailovi? as "a selfless idealist, leading his resistance troops, known as the Chetniks, on one raid after another against the Germans during WWII."
The movie was reviewed favorably in the Los Angeles entertainment trade paper The Hollywood Reporter when released in 1943: "Seldom has Hollywood given attention to a motion picture that offered more stirring material than this first feature about a living military hero of World War II."
In a review in the Chicago Daily Tribune on April 1, 1943, "Chetniks' Story Is Dramatically Told in Movie 'CHETNIKS'", Mae Tinee wrote: "This is a fiercely satisfying picture. We all know about the Chetniks, fighting guerrillas of JugoSlavia. We devour every word we can find to read about them--and a lot of us dream of them.... Now comes the movie ..."
The movie was shown in movie theaters nationwide in the U.S. in 1943. The movie was shown at the Globe in New York City on March 18, the B & K Apollo in Chicago, the Williamsburg Theatre in Virginia on Sunday, February 21, 1943 as The Fighting Guerrillas: 'Chetniks', at the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto California, and the Quilna Theatre in Lima, Ohio. The film was shown as a double feature in some theaters in 1943, paired with We Are the Marines (1942), a documentary on the U.S. Marine Corps.
According to a story in the April 3, 1943 Boxoffice magazine, "Chicago Mayor in PA For 'Chetniks' Debut", Chicago Mayor Edward J. Kelly attended a debut showing at the B & K Apollo theater after proclaiming "Chetnik Day" in Chicago on April 1.
After the war, the movie was pulled from circulation after Mihailovi? was accused of war crimes and executed. The movie was, however, rebroadcast on the rerun circuit in all the major television markets in Canada and the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. In October, 2009, the film was featured at the Zagreb Film Festival in Croatia as part of its Side Program in the category Film as Propaganda. Twentieth Century Fox has not released the movie on DVD as of 2016.
U.S. Navy Specialist 1st Class Arthur "Jibby" Jibilian, who saw the movie in 1943 before going to German-occupied Yugoslavia where he met Draza Mihailovich as part of Operation Halyard, reviewed the film favorably on IMDb in 2010.