VERBOTEN! RKO Radio Pictures, 1958/Columbia Pictures, 1959. James Best, Susan Cummings, Tom Pittman, Paul Dubov. Screenwriter-director: Samuel Fuller.

   Highly uneven and overly didactic, Samuel Fuller’s Verboten! is a quirky, stagey film about an American GI in Occupied Germany at the end of the Second World War. After he loses two of his colleagues and he himself gets injured in combat, Sergeant David Brent (James Best) finds himself the houseguest of an anti-Nazi German girl (Susan Cummings) who nurses him back to health. To no one’s surprise — certainly not to this viewer — Brent falls in love with his German companion. But since marriage and fraternization between the two is forbidden — verboten! — Brent decides to leave the Army and to serve in the civilian occupation of Germany.

   Little does he know that his wife’s friend Bruno Eckhart (Tom Pittman) and her younger brother are both secretly working with the Werwolf, the underground pro-Nazi “resistance.” Much of the movie is filled with heavy-handed dialogue about the difference between ordinary Germans and Nazis and the ways in which Hitler manipulated the German people into following him.

   Some of this is effective; a lot of it is over the top and actually serves to take away from the potency of the subject manner. There is, however, a stunningly effective sequence in which Eckhart attempts to rally a coterie of young, angry men to the Nazi cause in the rubble of occupied Germany. Pittman, who was a compelling screen presence, tragically died in a car crash in late 1958 at the young age of 26 several months before Verboten! was released in theaters.

   Fuller, always a maverick, utilizes Beethoven when showing the Americans in combat and Wagner for the Germans. That aesthetic choice, along with the choice to insert highly graphic newsreel footage from the concentration camps in the film, has the unusual effect of giving the entire movie a semi-documentary feel in which fiction and fact are intertwined in a decidedly ambitious, but ultimately mediocre war film. Verboten! is a movie wants to say a lot, to shout it from the rooftops, but does so in such a frenetic manner that the message gets drowned out by its own unfortunate shrillness.