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Haghi is a criminal mastermind whose ubiquitous spy operation is always several steps ahead of the police and the government's secret service. Enter Agent 326, the daring and dashing young man, who thinks his disguise as a dirty, bearded vagrant is fooling the unknown mastermind and his minions. But Haghi is well aware of 326's existence and what he looks like. Enter Sonya, a Russian lady in Haghi's employ. Haghi wants Sonya to subvert the efforts of the government agent, but doesn't count on her falling in love with him. Meanwhile, Haghi is anxious to get his hands on a Japanese peace treaty in the possession of the cunning Doctor Masimoto, whose mistress is also in his employ. Written by
Gerda Maurus, whose film-debut "Spione" was, and who met Fritz Lang for the first time here, later had a long relationship with the director, eventually causing his divorce from Thea von Harbou, who at the time was his wife and remained his regular co-author up until The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933), Lang's last German film before emigration to the U.S.. See more »
Great escapist entertainment--who cares that it's silent?
"Spies" is much more entertaining than you would expect an old German silent movie to be, and at first, it's hard to say why. The character types are familiar from hundreds of other spy movies: a villain who is bent on world domination and has multiple secret identities, a beautiful blonde who works as a spy for the villain, a dashing enemy agent who falls in love with the female spy. The plot is fairly ludicrous, though it moves along briskly and provides for some great set-pieces, such as an exhilarating chase scene. But despite all the clichés found in "Spies," the movie still feels fresh and vital. You get drawn into the world of the film and accept the clichés, rather than becoming distracted by them.
I'm sure most of the credit for this has to go to the director, Fritz Lang. His films ("Metropolis," "M") often have a very dark world view, but the overall tone of "Spies" is escapist adventure-fantasy. It aims to provoke thrills, not shock or outrage. Lang creates some stunning visual compositions and proves to be a very detail-oriented directorhe delights in close-ups of spy gadgetry! His innovative use of montages, dramatic lighting, camera movement, and other techniques gives the film an interesting stylization.
I'm writing this review after watching the 90-minute American version of "Spies". But I had such a good time that I may have to seek out the 146-minute version!
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