During the Great War, German and Japanese spies face off in the United States.

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(scenario), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview:
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Maj. John Northfield
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Kitty Little
Mayme Kelso ...
Miss Loring
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Mr. Harris
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Dr. Ebell Smith
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Storyline

Dr. Ebell Smith, whose real name is Schmidt, is a German secret agent working on the west coast of the USA. One of his associates is Kitty Little, a young woman who idealizes both Germany and her brother, who is in the Kaiser's army. They have been obtaining American military secrets through their contact with Major Northfield, who is in charge of a quartermaster depot. Nara-Nara, a young man serving in the secret service of Japan, which is allied with the USA, knows that there is a security leak in Northfield's office. An important troop transport order is soon to come through, and Smith abducts Northfield's secretary so that Kitty can take her place. Meanwhile, Nara-Nara sets up an office as an importer next to Northfield's office, in hopes of learning how the Germans are obtaining their information. Written by Snow Leopard

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Drama

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Release Date:

3 December 1917 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Solid Spy Drama, & Interesting In Its Perspectives
16 February 2006 | by (Ohio) – See all my reviews

This is a solid spy drama with a good amount of action and intrigue, and it is also interesting for its perspectives, specifically in the way that it depicts its characters. The story takes place in the middle of the First World War, then still in progress, and wartime concerns drive the plot and much else in the movie.

Although there are several important characters, Sessue Hayakawa (looking very young) has probably the largest role, and is in many respects the central character. He plays a Japanese secret agent who is attempting to stop German agents from getting hold of a vitally important troop transport order. He does not know which of the others is really an enemy spy, and meanwhile the Kaiser's agents are moving ahead with their own plans, so things quickly get complicated.

The ways that the different nationalities are portrayed is impossible to miss. The American characters are well-meaning but quite naive, unable to see some rather obvious signs of danger. Perhaps this was intended as a deliberate exhortation for the movie's viewers to be on the lookout for spy activity.

The German characters are depicted as cold-hearted, determined brutes, while Hayakawa and the other Japanese characters (Japan being an ally of the USA in the First World War) are generally portrayed as intelligent, perceptive, and resourceful. This is particularly interesting in comparison with the virulent anti-Japanese propaganda that was so common during the Second World War. Clearly, all of these portrayals are driven by the needs of the moment more than anything else.

Florence Vidor has the other interesting role, as an idealistic German spy who soon becomes tormented by mixed feelings over her activities. Vidor is always engaging, and she makes her character's struggles believable. The rest of the cast is solid if unspectacular.

The production as a whole seems good enough. The surviving print has suffered a lot of damage over the years, but with Charles Rosher as the cinematographer, it probably looked pretty good at one time. Overall, it's worth seeing both for the story and as a window into the feelings and perspectives of its time.


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