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A psychiatrist, desperate for money to keep his faltering practice running, makes a deal with a spy to hide a mysterious person in his clinic in return for a million francs. As soon as the deal is struck his place is overrun by spies from both East and West, all in search of a renegade nuclear scientist. The psychiatrist's own sanity starts to break down as he submitted to unmitigated surveillance and deception. Written by
Magnificent bizarre suspense film by the French Hitchcock
This intense study of suspicion and intrigue is devoted to the theme of 'whom can you trust?', with the answer being 'no one'. Henri-Georges Clouzot was a true master of suspense, known as 'the French Hitchcock', and he decided here to study spies in the way that an entomologist studies beetles, watching them scurry and turn over on their backs and die. Here, numerous people lie sweating in bed, many of them die, and all are betraying one another. They scurry around as if they smell something, and maybe they do, but often it is poison. One fires bullets through a door at an unknown enemy, several kill their deputies or assistants or proteges, and everyone is nervous. The Russians and the Americans both want to kill a physicist who knows too much. All of this comes to roost in a dilapidated rotting psychiatric asylum with only two patients, one mute woman played by Clouzot's wife Vera, giving one of the most powerful performances in the film without saying anything. The central character, superbly harried and worried and greedily noble, is played by Gerard Sety, to perfection. One minute he is grabbing a million, the next he is giving it away to save the world. Martita Hunt (Miss Havisham in David Lean's 'Great Expectations') is so creepy you will have no hair left on the back of your neck at the end of the film. O. E. Hasse is wonderful in a small but crucial part. Kurt Jurgens is powerful, massive, behind his sunglasses which he wears indoors as either a prisoner or a patient, one is for long not sure which. Peter Ustinov is sinister and menacing, not to be trifled with, always in an overcoat and greasily bearded. Sam Jaffe and Paul Carpenter are eerie and menacing, while vacillating between being heroes and villains: which is trying to kill which? Who is good? Who is bad? What is really going on? The complexities are so intricate, and the betrayals so compulsive that one realizes this is not just a thriller, it is a scientific study of just what its title says: 'spies', those deeply psychologically disturbed people whose sole restless compulsion is to search and betray. What a dark, fascinating, eerily photographed film, absolutely glistening with deceit in a kind of perennial dusk.
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