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The Spy in Black (1939)

 -  Thriller | War  -  7 October 1939 (USA)
7.0
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 994 users  
Reviews: 11 user | 21 critic

A German submarine is sent to the Orkney Isles in 1917 to sink the British fleet.

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(story), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Captain Hardt
Sebastian Shaw ...
Ashington
...
The School Mistress
Marius Goring ...
Schuster
...
Anne Burnett
Athole Stewart ...
The Rev. Hector Matthews
Agnes Lauchlan ...
Mrs. Matthews
Helen Haye ...
Mrs. Sedley
Cyril Raymond ...
The Rev. John Harris
George Summers ...
Captain Ratter
Hay Petrie ...
Engineer
Grant Sutherland ...
Bob Bratt
Robert Rendel ...
Admiral
Mary Morris ...
Chauffeuse
Margaret Moffatt ...
Kate
Edit

Storyline

When a German U-Boat captain is sent on a spying mission to the North of Scotland during World War One, he finds more than he bargained for in his contact, the local schoolmistress. Written by Ian Harries <ih@doc.ic.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Inside Story of Submarine Warfare! See more »

Genres:

Thriller | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

7 October 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Spy in Black  »

Box Office

Budget:

£47,300 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Local information form Orkney reports that it may have been the St Ola 1 that appeared in this film apparently sunk by U29. In real life the St Ola 1 served the route Thurso to Stromness between 1892 and 1951 with few cancellations in rough weather for the safety and comfort of passengers. See more »

Goofs

During the closeup of the kidnapping on the train about 15 minutes into the movie, the rapidly passing scenery is clearly being projected onto a screen as the screen edges are visible, and the people's shadows are also projected onto the screen. See more »

Quotes

The Reverand John Harris: That medal ribbon. I don't seem to recognise it. What is it?
Captain Hardt: The Iron Cross... Second Class.
The Reverand John Harris: Second Class... then you must be a prisoner of war?
Captain Hardt: No.
[draws gun]
Captain Hardt: You are.
The Reverand John Harris: Oh dear.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: KIEL BASE OF THE GERMAN GRAND FLEET 1917 See more »

Connections

Featured in Dad's Army: The Big Parade (1970) See more »

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User Reviews

 
An Intriguing Little Thriller with a Difference
3 May 2002 | by See all my reviews

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.


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