Samuel Thornton (Russell Hicks) is a wealthy American businessman. Thornton believes that Hitler needs to be stopped and to that end has advertised to give a million dollars to anyone who can kill him. The ad is answered by three men, Steve Maschick (Ward Bond), Hans “Dutch” Havermann (Warren Hymer) and Joe “The Book” Conway (Paul Fix). The three men are bootleggers and ex-cons who have just been released from Alcatraz for tax evasion. They convince Thornton that they are serious and plan on actually killing Hitler so they can collect the cool million.
Since the U.S. hasn’t yet entered the war, the ex-cons join the Royal Canadian Air Force. They hijack an aircraft and force the pilot, Johnny Stevens (Bruce Edwards) to fly to Germany. When the plane runs out of fuel they parachute out. With Johnny in tow the ex-cons hijack a truck and drive it towards Berlin. To facilitate their plan, the guys pretend to have a message for Hitler’s ears only. They are taken to Dachau to see Colonel Hecht (Felix Basch). They keep up their charade and are contacted by Else von Brandt (Dorothy Tree), from the German underground.
With Else’s help the men escape the camp and are taken to a safe house. During the escape attempt one of the men, Dutch, is killed by the Nazis. Steve, Joe and Johnny team up with a member of the underground named Meyer (Frederick Giermann) and pose as musicians. Their ploy gets them face to face with Hitler (Bobby Watson).
“Hitler-Dead or Alive” was released in 1942 and was directed by Nick Grinde. It is an American propaganda war film, a thriller, and because it is so dated, silly as hell. Although the tone of the film is more farcical than action oriented the camp is elevated due to the ridiculous plot. There was a smattering of movies done at this time that featured Hitler as the bad guy.
For a low budget toss away movie it has some really good character actors. Ward Bond is best known for westerns, specifically for playing Major Seth Adams in the television series “Wagon Train”. Paul Fix was also in many westerns and is probably best known for playing Micah Torrance in “The Rifleman”. Warren Hymer played mostly dumb mobsters. Bobby Watson, who plays Hitler, played the evil dictator in nine movies and is credited for playing Hitler more times than anyone else.
Quentin Tarantino said that the film was the inspiration for his film “Inglorious Basterds” 2009.
The plot of the film is supposed to be loosely based on an actual proposition by an American businessman who offered a million-dollar reward for anyone who would either kill or kidnap Hitler.
Far from good, the movie is a part of American culture from the forties and an interesting little look at the crap people fell for back then. Things seemed to be a little blacker and whiter in what were supposedly the good old days.