I Came to Blow Up “They Came to Blow Up America”


THEY CAME TO BLOW UP AMERICA (Edward Ludwig, 1943) has a good title (did they succeed? and how could anyone tell?) but I wasn’t enamoured of it, so as an experiment I decided to let it fade in memory before I attempted to write about it.

George Sanders is an all-American German-American (with an English accent picked up somewhere), but does he hide a dark secret? He seems to be a Nazi agent involved in Bund activity (the Germany-American Bund is portrayed as a hotbed of treason and terrorism, which is nice to see. Lots of members carried on in politics after the war without a stain on their characters and served in HUAC etc, which is less nice.

I think the Bund was pretty fascist-friendly but probably not as overtly overthrow-plotting as depicted here. It’s wartime so things are extreme.


The film is “based” on a real case of terrorism though — but the filmmakers didn’t have access to any of the facts, so they just made some up.

George, it soon transpires, is really working for the FBI (who had no involvement in this case). He’s sent back to the Fatherland undercover. There, he jeopardises his cover by trying to save an innocent girl, then the guy he’s impersonating — oh yeah, the guy who got shot, back in America — turns out to have a wife, who is Anna Sten.


George manages to convince top Nazi Inspector Lestrade — who has a Churchill dartboard, like a professionally-made Churchill dartboard, not just a dartboard with Churchill’s face pinned to it — that Sten is insane because she doesn’t recognise him, so she gets put away in the nuthouse, a business played for laughs, because she’s a Nazi too.

Later, realising he’s been tricked, Nazi Lestrade has Sten shot (with a Sten gun?) to save face. To be fair, his face is massive. Can the Fatherland afford to lose a face of such size?


George comes back to America on a U-boat, bribes a coast guard, and then I guess there must be some business about a plot to blow up America, with ticking time bombs, the clock hand ticking inexorably towards annihilation, but I have no memory of it. The whole business the title is predicated upon seems to have made no impression on me.

George is reunited with his lovely parents (those nice Gehrigs) but the family friend Concentration Camp Ehrhardt turns out to be a Nazi. The name should have been a clue.

That’s all I remember: the film is decently made but undistinguished, except the dissolves caught my attention when frame-grabbing.

THEY CAME TO BLOW UP AMERICA stars Addison DeWitt; Grouschenka; Inspector Lestrade; Concentration Camp Ehrhardt; Pop Gehrig; Mom Gehrig; Chingachgook; Geli Raubal; Dick Tracy; Sebastian Sholes; Colonel Haki; David Kentley; Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels; Sgt. Schultz; and Dr. Kluck.

2 Responses to “I Came to Blow Up “They Came to Blow Up America””

  1. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Sounds like Sam Fuller on Acid and/or a massive outtake from my favorite “Film Maudit,” “1941”

  2. Funnily enough, the other wartime Fox film I watched but nixed for Forgotten at Fox was Confirm or Deny, a Blitz-set newspaper drama from a Fuller story. It has some nice things too, including an impressive studio London to blow up.

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