It's WWII, as I mentioned, and the odd-yet-charming professor Smith is up to something. Between lecturing students and chatting with fellow academics, he's concocting secret and very subtle plans. One day, while teaching a class, he asks for volunteers for a class trip, for the purpose (ostensibly) to search for pre-modern Aryan civilisation in Germany; the only catch is that they'll have to come into close contact with the Nazis. Of course he gets his group together, spunky young chaps with a taste for adventure, and they're off to the Fatherland for a bit of sport.
Professor Smith: Why, I know it's Shakespeare. I thought Shakespeare was English.
General von Graum: No, no, no. Shakespeare is a German. Professor Schuessbacher has proved it once and for all.
Professor Smith: Dear, how very upsetting. Still, you must admit that the English translations are most remarkable.
General von Graum: Good night.
Professor Smith: Good night. Good night. "Parting is such sweet sorrow."
General von Graum: What is that?
Professor Smith: That's one of the most famous lines in German literature.
To say much more would really spoil much of the considerable fun; suffice it to say that there is a lady involved, and our intrepid students learn about our daring Pimpernel and get into the fun.
I thought it was a charming idea to cross-pollinate the two universes together; it was a time when suchlike characters were badly needed, and to make a movie like this at that time was just the sort of thing to inspire that kind of action. Apparently this film was part inspiration for the brave acts of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who helped free thousands of Jews from Nazi atrocities, apparently telling a relative after watching it that this was the kind of thing he would like to do. What better testament, wot? I myself was very inspired by the general atmosphere of the thing, as I, like most of us, grew up with the deadly gravitas of the second world war echoing about from every corner of world culture.
All in all it's a great classic film, made somehow greater by the freshness of it's relative obscurity. I wonder why more people haven't mentioned it; it has everything that classic films are made of, with in-jokes for the fans of the Pimpernel tales, and snappy dialogue in spades. I hope that someday it'll get more of it's due...it really deserves the attention.
I generally try not to post this many screenshots, but it's a good looking picture!