This is the tale of life in a British port in the first year of World War II. Spies and smugglers abound in the blackout and unreal shore life of the "phoney war" (before the shooting started). Written by
Steve Crook <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is a follow-up to THE SPY IN BLACK (1939) - utilizing the same director, writer and stars - and even better! It's described as a Hitchcockian comedy-thriller - though still every bit an "Archers" product - which only goes to show that the Master Of Suspense lost something by going to the US (the English films being more deliberately stylized); the second of 5 collaborations by the Powell/Pressburger team designed as propaganda for the war effort - each more ambitious and uncharacteristic of the typical British effort than the one before!
It's fast-paced and plot-packed, with several marvelous suspense scenes, but also excellent characterization all around - and a splendid cast: Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson are supported by a wonderful dual role from Hay Petrie, Esmond Knight, and even early villainous turns by Leo Genn and Peter Bull (dubbed "The Brothers Grimm" by Veidt's Captain Hans Andersen!) - with bits by Torin Thatcher and an especially nice one involving Bernard Miles; The Archers also take care to provide the chief villain (played by Raymond Lovell) with a speech impediment - though not as a means of ridiculing him.
The London locations (shot by the great Freddie Young) are superbly deployed - given an extra Expressionist edge by being largely set during a blackout (actually, the film's title in the US). The Archers would come to be known for their occasional drop in taste, already evident here in an interracial cabaret number entitled "White Negro"! The terrific climax involves a chase intercut with a free-for-all.
I had long wanted to purchase the R1 DVD but kept postponing it due to the utter lack of extras and the prohibitive price (only managing to get it through Deep Discount's recent sale on Kino products!); still, the transfer is disappointing (and yet the only way the film is available for the moment!): bright, soft and probably PAL sourced (given that the running time is only 87 minutes against the official 92
the sleeve notes thus making the mistake of stating that it's 8
minutes, rather than 12, longer than the version originally shown in the US!).
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