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By Merle Bertrand | September 12, 2002

Something smells fishy in Cut Off, Louisiana, and it ain’t the town’s fishing boats. German U-boats are sinking commercial ships off the Louisiana Gulf coast with alarming regularity. So much so, in fact, that the locals believe that there must be a traitor in their midst. All eyes turn to Camille Picou (Tatum O’Neal) and her family in that creepy way things generally work in small towns.
True, Camille doesn’t do much to ease those fears. For as the townspeople already whisper unsubstantiated rumors about Camille and her late husband’s involvement in a deadly immigrant smuggling scheme, she’s buddying up with her new German neighbor Dr. Lenz (Julian Sands), much to the aggravation of power mad home guard chief Ensign Jack Burwell (Eion Bailey). Ensign Burwell will do anything to puff himself up in front of Camille’s gorgeous daughter Florida (Lacey Chabert). So when several gallons of fuel suspiciously turn up missing, he enlists Camille’s bored son Blue (Patrick McCullough) and pits him against his mother in a desperate attempt to extract a confession.
Speaking of Confessions, Father Antoine (Tim Curry), the coolest priest ever, is as well versed in the art of wartime black marketeering and bartering as he is the catechism. He provides comfort and solace to Camille and her family…even as he’s listening in to the Germans on a short wave radio he purchased with church money.
So, who’s the spy in Cut Off? You’ll have to see “The Scoundrel’s Wife” yourself, because I’m not telling. You’ll want to see it anyway, especially if you’re a part of the amazingly enduring boomlet whose become enamored with anything having to do with the Greatest Generation.
The most refreshing thing about director Glen Pitre’s film is that it concentrates on the war at home; all those little battles and intrigues and mini-dramas that must have played out all across the country while American soldiers were off fighting the original Axis of Evil overseas. “The Scoundrel’s Wife” touches on themes, like racism and religious persecution, without being too heavy-handed about it. It also provides the startling realization that, although the battlefields were in Europe, the war actually did come pretty darned close to home. I for one, didn’t realize that one could actually hear the explosions and see the smoke from stricken merchant ships, so close did the German U-boats patrol our shores.
“The Scoundrel’s Wife” looks great and Pitre fills the film with solid performances all around. Special kudos here to Curry, who chews up every single scene he’s in. An unusual tale about an often over-glorified era from our past, “The Scoundrel’s Wife” exposes wartime America’s sordid small town underbelly in a captivating, even entertaining manner.

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