Monday, January 28, 2002


I haven't seen enough Fritz Lang yet to have a handle on his style. Unlike SCARLET STREET, this is a rather light-toned thriller, based on a Graham Greene novel, and very Hitchcockian in many respects: plot, acting, situations. During WWII, Ray Milland is released from two years in an asylum (he was put there as punishment for the mercy killing of his wife, although we don't find that our until about a third of the way in). His first experience of the outside world is to be plunged into what seems to be a lovely British village fair, raising money for a group called Mothers of Free Nations. But after a couple of surreal happenings involving a fortune teller and a cake he wins at a booth, he realizes that he has been mistaken for a spy and he spends the rest of the movie trying to uncover the spy ring. Marjorie Reynolds (HOLIDAY INN) is his Germanic sweetheart, who is involved with the charity group. For most of the movie, we're not sure who to trust: Reynolds? Her seemingly harmless and altruistic brother? A lovely socialite who gives seances? One person we definitely don't trust is Dan Duryea, who pops up in almost as many identities as Mary Astor in THE MALTESE FALCON.

What makes this film is the atmosphere--lots of shadows and odd angles. The seance scene is great. So is the opening village fair--like Hitchcock, Lang can give a bland, everyday setting a creepy feeling. Speaking of which, he does the same thing for a later scene in a tailor's shop, with a very large pair of scissors as a central prop (inspiration for Hitchcock in DIAL M FOR MURDER?). The climactic rooftop chase is nicely done. The very last shot (played for laughs) is also right out of Hitchcock. Alan Napier (Alfred the bulter in the TV Batman series) has a small part. Well worth a viewing.

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