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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 <email@example.com>
This excellent birth of "The Archers" just managed its London premiere the very week WWII was declared in Britain and all places of entertainment were ordered to close,albeit temporarily. Second of all Veidt was and is my favourite actor,having seen all but some rare silents from "Caligari" onwards. He was the definitive popular German swine(Eric Von,notwithstanding)although he did play many other parts - Jew Suss/Under The Red Robe,a mediaeval swashbuckler, the mysterious stranger in "Passing of the 3rd Floor,Back" or the aviator in "FP1"(English version). Shortly after fleeing the Nazis (whom he loathed) in the 30s he gladly set up a home near Korda's famous Denham studios and was a doting father to his daughter while soon becoming the tall and cultured idol of thousands of women.
He was also a Korda favourite and this first pairing with then one of Britain's favourite glamour girls.Valerie Hobson, following her brief success with Universal,he was rushed into another naval adventure,"Contraband" equally entertaining. Like,say, Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes", this is great escapist stuff with a mystery character at the centre of the story. But one point in the movie has always bothered me - just how does one manhandle a motor cycle up the steep conning tower of a submarine? We are never shown how Veidt managed it!
By the same token, how did Erik in "Phantom of the Opera" manage to get his organ/piano into his hideout amongst the Paris sewers? After all, we see the problem he had with the small boat! Curiously, Veidt's Nazi officer in "Escape" & "Casablanca" both died in the middle of a phone call while attempting the prevent an escape.
"Spy" has its share of amusing lines & allusions. On his entry at the start he & fellow submariner get seated at a crowded fashionable hotel anticipating a slap-up meal after a long period at sea only to be told almost every dish is "off" - even for naval officers. They leave in disgust & still starved. A while later when Hardt has been secretly landed on the Orkneys with motorcycle,late at night & having avoided discovery.he meets his contact V Hobson (a British agent posing as a local teacher)at home. Entering the kitchen he stops short & stares hard,alarming her and utters the word "boota!" in some disbelief which she interprets as "no,"butter!".and as he proceeds to dig with relish into a side of ham he remarks "These English - they are so long without their food!" The time was WW1 and an ironic comment on the German shortages - but the film's settings were equally appropriate to forthcoming WW2 conditions in Britain. During the film's production all the menacing signs of 1938/1939 were there but it seemed only Churchill was convinced of the inevitable when everyone wanted to believe Chamberlain. The film's scheduled release to London's Odeon cinema did not anticipate the decisive act of Germany's invasion of Poland.
Sadly, there was a real-life similarity in both Veidt's & Bing Crosby's sudden collapse just following a game of golf. Veidt had barely turned 50 as a Warner's star and still had lots to offer.
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