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A story of German-born identical twins (both played by Veidt), one a loyal American and the other, a Nazi official. The American is forced to help a group of German spies, but eventually rebels, kills his brother, impersonates him, and exposes the ring. Written by
Herman Seifer <email@example.com>
Nazi Agent presents a rare opportunity to see the great Conrad Veidt play a lead role (as twin brothers with opposite personalities and values, no less) in a well-preserved sound film with a solid, serious theme and lasting value. Although this is obviously a "B"-level production made on a low budget, the brisk direction by Jules Dassin, the tight and literate script and some very good supporting players, make it as satisfying as many an "A" effort.
Otto is a gentle expatriate German bookseller whose quiet life in America is disrupted when his Nazi twin, Baron Hugo von Detner, threatens to reveal his illegal immigrant status to the US authorities unless he allows the Nazi spy network to use his bookstore as a message center. Otto desolately goes along for a while but when he finally resists, Hugo comes to shoot him. They struggle. Otto shoots Hugo instead, then assumes his identity and proceeds to sabotage the saboteurs, who include the memorable Martin Kosleck, whose presence in many films from this time screamed "Nazi." With his marionette-like features, lacquered hair and fey efficiency, he was a top scene stealer. Another excellent performance comes from the prolific Frank Reicher as Fritz, Hugo's aging valet who quickly realizes that his master isn't really his master. But it's really Veidt's movie, playing warm and cold, frightened and bold, kind and cruel all with shading, subtlety and expertise. The movies suffered an irreparable loss in April 1943 when this man died on a California golf course at the age of 50.
This quietly powerful film is an adventure of ideas and ideals. The ending, though not as well shot as it might have been, is both stirring and heartbreaking.
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