Friday, July 29, 2016

I WAS A SPY (1933)

In 1915, behind enemy lines in Belgium, nurse Madeleine Carroll agrees to help out at a hospital treating wounded Germans. In town, German commander Conrad Veidt is forcing residents to give up food and supplies to give to his troops. Carroll is approached by her aunt and agrees to pass secret messages to the British. One of her German co-workers, Herbert Marshall, turns out to be the head of the local resistance force and, working together, they figure out that the Germans are planning to use poison gas, and they manage to blow up important German supplies. Meanwhile, Veidt begins to fall for Carroll even as he suspects that she may be a spy. This is an above average spy-romance story, based on the exploits of a real person, Martha Cnockhaert, and it's filled with tense scenes of spy activities and people almost getting caught and people sacrificing their own safety to help others. There are particularly good sequences involving a supply dump explosion, the aftermath of a poison gas attack in which a crowd chants the Our Father as injured soldiers are being tended to, and the slaughter of war vets who are gathered for a church event. Carroll and Veidt are fine, though I have my usual Herbert Marshall problem: in movies where he’s supposed to be charming and dashing and romantic (like BLONDE VENUS), he never comes off like that to me so the sparks between he and his leading lady never feel real. But the chemistry between Veidt and Carroll (both pictured at right) makes up for Marshall's lack. Also with Edmund Gwenn as the town’s burgomaster, Nigel Bruce, Martita Hunt, and Gerald du Maurier (Daphne’s father). [DVD]

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