Friday, June 02, 2017


In 1917 France, British troops walk right into a German trap and espionage is suspected, thought to be the work of legendary German spy Strendler. Pilot Frank Bennett (Bruce Lester) is sent on a mission over enemy lines, is shot down, and is nursed back to health in a French hospital by Helene von Lorbeer (Margaret Lindsay). He falls for her, but she leaves abruptly; we find out she's actually a German spy, and her next mission is to be planted in home of Bennett's father, a government official. She poses as a refugee and is given the job of maid in the house. Her password, "Always forward, never backward," is delivered by Valder, the Mitchell butler (Boris Karloff); she is to ferret out military secrets and he will be her liaison with Strendler. (At least one other spy has infiltrated Bennett’s circle—a secretary—which made me wonder why they needed Helene.) As things seem to running smoothly for the Germans, Frank returns home and recognizes Helene as his lost love; she tells him she's actually a British double agent. Guess who else seems to be a double agent? Valder! But then who or what is Strendler? The rest of the plot plays with these varying seemingly shifting loyalties until a fairly predictable ending.

This is a remake of THREE FACES EAST, itself a remake of a silent film and based on a play. Warner Bros. did this re-purposing fairly frequently in the 30s and 40s to provide material for their B-movie unit. This follows the 1930 version very closely, so if you know that film, there will be no plot surprises. Karloff proves a solid replacement for Erich von Stroheim, and Lindsay is better than Constance Bennett, and the whole thing is nicely done and briskly paced, as most products of the Warner B-unit were. The World War I setting was kept, though the ending features a rousing propaganda speech fitting for WWII. It is rather stagy, mostly being set in rooms in houses, though there is a German zeppelin raid over London at the climax. This is worth your time (71 minutes) if only to see Karloff (pictured) do a nice job in a non-horror role. [DVD]

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