Thursday, January 12, 2012


In the fall of 1940, socialite Anna Neagle has become persona non grata in wartime England because she's a Nazi sympathizer (and, it's implied in the opening scene, actively engaging in espionage by signaling to German warplanes), so she heads off to Canada on the S.S. Carina where she is roundly ignored except by polish refugee Albert Lieven who takes pity on her, and by Richard Greene, a Navy commander who is traveling incognito and who keeps a close eye on her. A German ship stops the liner, apparently tipped off by Neagle, and demands Greene be surrendered to them, but a planted spy is given up instead—and a feisty old passenger (Margaret Rutherford) trips the Nazi captain on his way off the ship. In Halifax, Lieven takes Neagle in and she ingratiates herself with Lieven's elderly mother and her circle of friends, despite her toasting to the "new order" when everyone else toasts to "old freedoms." Big surprise #1: Lieven is actually a Nazi spy who is in on a plan to blow up Halifax Harbor. Big surprises # 2 & 3: Neagle is actually a spy for the British who is trying to infiltrate Lieven's ring, and Greene is her contact. Big surprise #4: Guess who's the head of the Nazi spy ring?

This WWII spy thriller has a great storyline and two very good performances by Neagle and Lieven, but it's almost sunk by a generally drab treatment and a slow pace, with the film's style alternating between traditional thriller and faux-documentary, and because of that, some of the key suspense scenes are bungled. Of course, those big surprises above will not really be surprises to anyone who's seen even a couple of spy movies, but it's fun to see all the elements fall into place. Neagle does a nice job keeping her cool and acting like she's really a traitor, even after we know she's not, and Lieven conveys his character’s slippery nature quite well. Greene (pictured above with Neagle) is handsome and suitably heroic, though overshadowed by Neagle. Rutherford has an amusing moment or two. There seems to be a huge plothole near the end when Greene arrives to save Neagle mere moments after she had called him at headquarters. Unless HQ was next right next door, I have no idea how he got there so fast. The title refers (I think) to Neagle's Nazi spy code name. [TCM]

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