5.8/10
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6 user 5 critic

Three Faces East (1930)

A beautiful British intelligence agent attempts to reveal the identity and motives of a powerful German spy during World War 1.

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Cast

Cast overview:
...
Frances Hawtree / Z-1
...
Valdar / Schiller / Blecher
...
Capt. Arthur Chamberlain
William Holden ...
Sir Winston Chamberlain
William Courtenay ...
Mr. Yates
...
Lady Catherine Chamberlain
...
General Hewlett
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Storyline

A beautiful British intelligence agent attempts to reveal the identity and motives of a powerful German spy during World War 1.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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Drama

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Release Date:

26 August 1930 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Agent Z 1  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Was remade in 1940 under the title "British Intelligence" starring Boris Karloff and Margaret Lindsay and adapted to take place during WWII. See more »

Connections

Version of Three Faces East (1926) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A great thriller brought down a bit by its early sound pedigree...
27 September 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

but is it really fair to downgrade this film because of that? Would you downgrade Star Wars because the creatures were men in rubber suits rather than CGI creations not technologically possible in 1977?

It is WWI, and Constance Bennett plays Frances Hawtree / agent Z-1, assigned to go to England by the Germans. She is to claim that she and the oldest son of Lord Winston Chamberlain and Lady Katherine Chamberlain were in the same POW hospital, fell in love, and that he died before she could escape. (He did actually die.) She brings some of his personal effects back to them. This way she can work her way into their trust, their hearts, and their home and thus abscond with some important allied secrets. Eric Von Stroheim plays Valdar, Frances' superior and contact, and is also masquerading as a butler. "Three Faces East" is the phrase that they use to recognize one another as fellow agents. I can tell you this because Von Stroheim is seen early in the movie receiving a medal from the French army. If he was a soldier there is no way he would now, a short time later, be working as a butler in the Chamberlain estate.

The rest of the movie is a series of double crosses, tricks, and surprises that have stood the test of time as far as keeping you guessing as who is really who and what happens next. Plus one thing that almost trips everything up is a piece of information that was a secret between the dead older Chamberlain son and the younger Chamberlain son, Arthur, who is home recovering from a shoulder wound. I'll let you watch and find out what happens.

Just a couple of things seem a bit silly to me. First, why is this carefully guarded information of Allied troop movements being carried by armed guard via attache case to the Chamberlain estate, then just dumped in the safe where it is completely unguarded at night where anyone could get it? Why isn't it under lock and key and under guard at a military installation, not a private estate which apparently has no security, not even a dog or alarm system? If this is the security set-up, why does Frances/Z-1 even need to be there? Couldn't Valdar sneak downstairs in the middle of the night and get the information himself? Well the answer to the this last question is probably that audiences would much rather look at Constance Bennett for 71 minutes than Erich Von Stroheim.

One more odd thing - Both young Arthur AND Valdar declare their love to Z-1, knowing only the sketchiest details about her. What if the girl has insanity in her family, lay about relatives, or annoying or spendthrift habits? But I digress.

For a well paced tale of wartime intrigue, with good dialogue and good performances, and very good direction that makes you forget that the camera still can't move much at this period in time, I highly recommend it. Plus I just love the final scene - it is not what you are expecting.


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