Blockade is a film with a purpose – a plea against war. But it misses any claim to greatness because it pulls its punches.
Modern Spain in the death-grip of civil war is the background of the screenplay, an original by John Howard Lawson. Lawson is not a writer who ordinarily pussyfoots his themes, but in an apparent attempt to straddle the Spanish issues and preserve an international distribution market for the picture, he disguises the warring factions and attempts the impossible task of impersonalizing war and its helpless, starving civilian victims.
The Hays office advised radical alterations in the original script to avoid offense to foreign powers. Fact is, that the strength and power of a film of this type reside in offensiveness and partisanship.
This is a story of romance and espionage. Madeleine Carroll is the daughter of an international agent, who is the tool of a higher-up. The group profits from war. Henry Fonda is a farmer youth, now a soldier fighting for his land, and soon discovers that Carroll, despite all her blonde beauty, is his country’s enemy. When she sees firsthand the suffering of innocent and helpless women and children, she confesses her part in the dirty work and leads Fonda to the rendezvous of the spies.
Werner Jenssen’s special music for the film is interesting because he uses an off-screen chorus in several spots to highlight the martial mood and the happiness of the people when their ship comes in.