Frustrated by a seemingly infallible gang of jewel thieves, Scotland Yard arranges to have an undercover agent become part of the gang. Once inside, the agent starts to become attached to a Russian woman who is part of the gang but seems to want to break free of the sordid life she leads. Trying to trap the leader of the gang -- whom no one has ever seen - the police plan goes awry and their agent is put into mortal danger, with his one chance being the Russian woman having told the truth about wanting to break free. Written by
Ron Kerrigna <email@example.com>
I just saw this on TCM as part of six Teddington studios Warner Bros. made-in-England so-called Quota Quickies never meant for export outside England. I am very impressed. English actors are in every way superior to their American counterparts of the time. The dialogue is literate, as can be expected from a people who made "talking pictures" instead of "movies", like the expression goes. This undercover-cop-acting-as-a-jewel-thief story has all the action elements that one can expect from the Fritz Lang-inspired melodramas of the time and that have survived in the Adventures of Tintin: hidden lairs with two-way mirrors and secret passages, car pursuits, death by piped-in gas, an arch-villain with a double identity who happens to be bordering on lunacy, etc. But the proceedings are saved by the extreme intelligence of the principals: Lilli Palmer, in her first English-language film, and Esmond Knight, a Michael Powell regular, who had absolutely everything to become a sexier, more proactive and muscular Laurence Olivier, but whose career was cut short by his losing an eye in WWII, after which he took on extremely surprising and varied character roles. The films in the Paddington treasure trove are absolutely pristine in image and sound and put to shame many films of the period as far as conservation goes. The direction by a stalwart of the Hollywood system is also equally brilliant. In short, films like this one make it hard to understand why the British public would prefer the American product and the terrible things that have been written about them.
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