Monday, October 06, 2014


This WWII spy film is based on an actual incident, now known as Operation Pastorius, in which eight German spies snuck into the country to commit acts of sabotage but were arrested before they could pull any of them off. At the time the film was made, the details of the case were still considered secret so, as an opening disclaimer states, this is a total fictionalization. Carl Steelman (George Sanders) is a German-American who has disappointed his family by joining the Bund, on the surface a German social club but actually a pro-Nazi organization which seeks to implement Nazi ideology in the US. However, Steelman has actually infiltrated the group as a spy for the FBI. Reiter, one of the Bund leaders, is called back to Germany to attend classes on sabotage, but he is shot and killed in a government raid and Steelman takes his identity and goes to Berlin instead. He is so good at his espionage exercises, he is given command of an important mission: he and his men are taken by submarine to the New York coast to begin their sabotage. But Sanders runs into a few problems involving people trying to rat him out: Reiter's wife shows up in Berlin, and a friend of Steelman's family in the States inadvertently finds out about his status with the FBI. Though fictional, this is a good spy story and works well as wartime propaganda. Sanders is fine and pretty much has the show all to himself—the only other major characters are his FBI contact (Ward Bond, pictured to the left of Sanders), Reiter's wife (Anna Sten), and Dennis Hoey as a Nazi commander. The subplot involving Sten is compelling and it ends in a fairly unpredictable way. Also in the cast are Ludwig Stossel, Sig Ruman and Robert Barrat. [The Bund was a real organization; I just read a recent history of the Bund, Swastika Nation by Arnie Bernstein, and according to the author, Germany actually tried to distance itself from the Bundists, fearing they would do more harm than good to their cause.] [DVD]

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