Saturday, July 06, 2002


This was shown recently on TCM as part of their "lady spy" series. Myrna Loy is a German counter-espionage agent (known as the shadowy "Fraulein Doktor," who was apparently a real historical figure) whose job is to find out if a certain Turkish officer is leaking secrets to the British. In an early scene, she warns her boss (Lionel Atwill) to do something about Mata Hari because she has fallen in love and will no longer be an effective spy. Of course, eventually the same thing happens to Loy. George Brent plays a medical student who accidently gets tangled up in her spy game and falls head over heels in love with Loy. The real problem with the movie is that the two have little chemistry. Loy treats Brent as a puppy-like irritation (and Brent, despite seeming a bit too old for the part, does play it with a certain puppy-love frivolity), then suddenly she is in love with him--we never see it happen, she just says she is, and I don't buy it for a minute. The scenes early in their relationship have a certain frothy quality that comes close to screwball as Brent tries to ingratiate himself to Loy. The latter part of the film gets melodramatic and predictable, and keeps some important plot action involving Brent off screen. I liked Atwill a lot; I always thought of him mostly as a supporting player in horror movies, but I've also liked him in THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN, THE MURDER MAN, and BALALAIKA. I have also been enjoying C. Henry Gordon, who played swarthy villains in MATA HARI and CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE. Here he plays the treacherous Turk and adds life to all of his scenes. The off-kilter atmosphere and some major plot loopholes make this one difficult to recommend except to Brent and Loy fans.

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