The Spy in Black


Action / Thriller / War


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August 28, 2014 at 07:33 AM



Sebastian Shaw as Ashington
Valerie Hobson as The School Mistress
Conrad Veidt as Captain Hardt
June Duprez as Anne Burnett
720p 1080p
695.36 MB
25.000 fps
1hr 22 min
P/S 4 / 4
1.24 GB
25.000 fps
1hr 22 min
P/S 1 / 8

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Bob Westal 8 / 10

An Intriguing Little Thriller with a Difference

Just wanted to second the other user's comment.

I saw this last night as part of a Michael Powell/Emeric Pressberger retrospective underway at the American Cinemetheque. There are some unlikely aspects to the plot, but on the whole this is well crafted WWI thriller with a remarkable level of moral complexity, especially given that it was made and released just as England was entering a second war against Germany.

The protagonist (hero?) (played by the extraordinary Conrad Veidt) is a German officer on a spy mission and he is, in many respects, a quite admirable character. For the first half of the film, it's almost entirely from his point of view. It's hard to imagine Hollywood filmmakers EVER having the confidence that Powell and Pressberger clearly had in the intelligence of their audience, allowing them to actually like and admire an enemy agent.

While "The Spy in Black" eventually does come down squarely on the side of the English, the agents of the Kaiser come off only as perhaps a hair more ruthless than those fighting for king and country.

Of course, the Germany that England would be fighting within a few a few months would be far, far worse. This film is a potent reminder that while World War II might have a morally clear "good" war because of the vast evil of the Nazis, World War I was a horse of a far grayer color.

With sophisticated, occasionally black humor, this is a neat bit of old-fashioned movie entertainment with some genuinely intriguing differences. Enthusaistically recommended.

Reviewed by Gary170459 8 / 10

The first Powell-Pressburger collaboration

A deceptively and beautifully simple little film, a great start for the Powell and Pressburger collaboration, and good British propaganda fun too. Much too simple for most people today who would miss colour, violence, depravity, unfathomable plot and shaky camera work in their spy films.

Austere devilishly handsome German U Boat captain Conrad Veidt has convoluted spying mission in 1917 Scotland to locate the British fleet but finds himself being sidetracked with schoolmistress contact Valerie Hobson and the availability of butter. But even though WW1 is portrayed as more "civilised" than the coming war as in Colonel Blimp, oil and water must always remain just so. There's a fine cast of British stalwarts for example the seemingly legless Hay Petrie, some eccentric most with secrets, and high production values generally disguising occasionally flimsy sets and occasional implausibility. Rosza's music was high class too, nicely complementing the nitrate black and white film stock, which unfortunately has been allowed to deteriorate over the years but sometimes unintentionally lets you believe it really is 1917 and not 1939. As with Colonel Blimp 4 years later the German viewpoint with a sympathetic lead is told with a seeming impartiality, but after all there wasn't any doubt about the outcome. Even Chamberlain might've been hard to appease if Veidt's plans had been shown to bear fruit!

Throwaway - so why can't I throw it away? Entertaining, engrossing, amusing, nothing very heavy and even on the verge of war not a big flag-waver, so it's just the type of film I enjoy.

Reviewed by theowinthrop 10 / 10

Good old British entertainment

If one really wants to get a glimmer of what Conrad Veidt's career would have been like in American cinema but for the coming of World War II just as he came to Hollywood, look at his British films from 1934 to 1940. In many respects his best work was done then - he had a wider variety of roles, and was not typecast as villains as frequently as he was in the U.S. Among the films that I'd recommend watching is THE SPY IN BLACK.

In World War I, Veidt is the commander of a U.Boat sent to Scottish waters. He is told that there is a British naval officer who is willing to betray the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. Veidt is shown interacting with his crew at the beginning, but he goes by life boat to the land, and meets his contact Valerie Hobson. She introduces him to Sebastian Shaw, the naval officer. Shaw seems to be drowning his anger in liquor, but he is prepared to give Veidt a naval document about a sortie by the Grand Fleet on a particular date, which would pass a narrow point the U-Boat would be stationed at. Veidt would then be in a position to sink several of the British dreadnoughts in what would be the worst disaster to strike the fleet since U-Boat Commander Weddigen sank the Hogue, Aboukir, and Cressy in September 1914.

It's too good to be true. But gradually Veidt realizes it isn't true. He's been set up, and Shaw and Hobson are trying to capture him. And the film becomes a chase - with Veidt running amongst the islanders in the Hebrides. But his conflict is that of the gentlemanly type. He will use force, if necessary, to still reach his boat and crew and try to do some damage to his enemy's ships. But he is not by nature cruel. A telling moment in the film is late in it, when he commandeers a ferry boat. He is armed and he tells the adults that he won't hesitate to use his gun if necessary. But having said that he hears the crying of a baby that one of the woman on the ferry is carrying, and his voice softens as he says that he certainly will not war against the innocent. Veidt never said anything like that in his Hollywood films - few Nazis (as he himself would have been the first to point out from private knowledge) would have hesitated in hurting an enemy's child or baby.

The film was the best that Veidt made playing an enemy officer in either world war. It ends tragically, but honorably for the man, as he decides to join his crew for the last time.

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