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Andre De Toth,who 's famous for directing mainly westerns ,pays here a
tribute to men and women who work in the shadow,at their own risk:Jack
Hawkins portrays a German officer ,who secretly refuses the nazi
ideology and who passes on military informations to the Allies.He is
helped by a courageous singer,played by beautiful Gia Scala -who would
be the traitor in "Guns of Navarone" (1960),and who died in the late
sixties of overdose.
Andre De Toth wanted to show the facts and nothing but the facts.So,no psychology here.His choice leaves the spectator hungry for more:why
this officer who fought during WW1 and suffered supreme insult of defeat, why should he join the other side?
The movie is absorbing,with a very competent cast,some funny scenes (the aide-de-camp who believes he's found evidence against his chief,while listening to Hawkins/Scala 's conversation and is called peeping tom by a superior),some suspenseful ones influenced by Lang and Hitchcock(the car got bogged down).
Outside the westerns,do not miss De Toth's "house of wax".
During the Second World War, a British spy has to fulfill risky
missions in Germany with the help of a contact who pretends to be a
seller of watches. When the man's identity is discovered and is killed,
the spy will find a new contact in a cabaret: "Lily" (Gia Scala),
pretends to be a singer, and the love story that should be simulated to
carry out its mission, ends up being true.
"The Two-Headed Spyes" is one of the best films that perfectly blend intrigue, Noir films, detective films, espionage and war drama. All that is a mixture of ideas is very well made, like the atmosphere and tension, but as usual the story is very unlikely. To think that a German general is a spy for 25 years of the English and not the hunted, is absurd. If that general is also key in the Ardennes or serves to influence Hitler is even less credible and closer to fantasy.
The best thing is the direction of Andre de Toth in the commercial that always makes art films, with plans and innovative frames but not far-fetched, but appear in a completely natural fruit quality.
And of course the actions of Jack Hawkins, one of the best side of American cinema here is a mature protagonist extraordinary character.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**SPOILERS**Having been planted in the German Army by British
intelligence back in 1914, some 20 years before the Nazis took control
of Germany, Alex Schottland, Jack Hawkins, was in the unique position,
even though being a former British citizen, to work his way up the
ladder. Scottland worked his way up to the point where he became in
charge of supplies for the German Army without the slightest suspicion
of German Furuer Adolph Hitler, Kennith Griffih, and his dreaded secret
police the Gestapo.
After the German conquest of Poland in 1939 Scottland is promoted to general for his excellent efforts in suppling the German Military in its 34 day blitzkrieg. The Nazi blitzkrieg on Poland stunned the world who thought that the war would last some six months well into the winter of 1939.
Working behind the scenes Schottland with the help of his contact British Secret Agent Cornaz, Felix Aylmer, who poses as a inconspicuous old watchmaker gets the information back to MI5, the British version of the CIA, that the long expected invasion of Britian, Operation Sea Lion, was called off! Hitler and his General Staff decided instead to launch a massive 3 million man invasion of Soviet Russin the following summer. This gave the battered British Army and Navy breathing room to recover from the beating they took in the Nazis conquest of Western Europe in the spring and early summer of 1940.
Britain who was being supplied with huge amounts of much needed war material by the US, who at the time considered itself to be neutral in the war, hoped that the Soviet Red Army would do what the allies, Britian & France, were unable to since the war began ;Stop the then unstoppable Nazi Juggernaut!
As the war progresses and the Nazis start losing it becomes apparent to their high command that someone high up is giving the Allies secret information on their military planning! That's when things start to go sour for Gen.Schottland and those whom he's secretly working with. The first shoe to drop is on Gen. Schottland secret British contact in Berlin watchmaker Cornaz. Caught red-handed, in sneaking out information to Britain, by the Gestapo Cornaz is tortured to death but keeps his mouth shut not revealing his fellow spy Gen. Schottland.
Having Cornaz replaced by the British with Italian singing sensation Lili Geya, Gia Scala, doesn't help Gen, Scottland much either. Gen. Scottland, who knew Lili before the war, was too busy keeping his eyes on the beautiful Lili more then his work leading to a number of major screw-ups on his part. All that eventually leads to Lili's unfortunate death in the dying days of WWII. Lili was shot by Gen, Schottland Aid-de-camp Lt. Reinisch, Erik Schumann, who recognized her when she tried to cross over to the British lines with a secret map, provided to her by Schottland, about future German troop movements.
***SPOILER ALERT*** The both sly and slippery Gen. Schottland is so good at his work that he manages to outfox the Nazis at their own game, trickery and deception, by getting Nazi Generals loyal to the Fuhrer arrested and executed by the Gestapo for treason and disloyalty. Gen Schottland even goes so far as getting German Generals, one of them Gen Hartz played by Donald Pleasence, who are secretly in league with the allies like himself, to do in the Fuhrer, exposed and summarily executed just to keep the Gestapo from suspecting him!
I don't know if the story about Gen Schottland is real but if it is the guy made legendary British Secret Agent James Bond look like a rank armature. Always a step ahead of the Nazis Gen.Schottland seems to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth in all the escapes he makes from being caught, at the expense of his fellow British spies, that he comes across not only as being unbelievably lucky but both omnipresent and prophetic, in him knowing what the Nazis are to do ahead of time even before the Nazis do, as well!
P.S Look for an uncredited and young 25 year old Michael Cain in the movie playing a Gestapo Agent.
I have nothing much to add to the reviews already here, but that I
loved the film. Stylish, beautifully paced, and remarkably suspenseful,
it features an intriguingly controlled and flawlessly nuanced
performance by Jack Hawkins, who makes you believe it possible that a
British agent, hidden for twenty years, could exist undercover at the
highest levels of the Third Reich. And as a sign of the 1958 that
produced "The Two-Headed Spy," most revealing of the relationships
between international film interests that the blacklisted Michael
Wilson and Alfred Levitt were denied credit as scriptwriters in a
British film because of its U.S. release by Columbia.
However, for the record, I would like to correct a remark made by oxbridgeup from New Hampshire, who took issue with the use of tape recording in a scene, stating that it was not invented until 1947. Tape recording had actually been invented in Germany in the 1930s; it was used extensively in radio stations and by the Gestapo, most effectively as a tool to issue simultaneous statements by Hitler to units at all the various military fronts to give the Fuhrer the illusion of omnipresence. 1947 is the year the technology was introduced in the United States, and was patented by a group funded by Bing Crosby, who saw the potential in the format. An American audio engineer who, while assigned to the U.S. Army Signal Corps, had absconded with two of the pioneering German Magnetophon recorders (and numerous IG Farben magnetic tapes) at WWII's end, presented the technology to MGM and Crosby. Before this forming of Ampex, Farben had held the rights for magnetic tape (originally patented in the '20s as a long paper strip with an iron oxide coating) and AEG for recording/playing decks and their improvements -- most significantly, AC tape bias and stereophonic recording. Farben was, of course, dissolved in 1945 because of its cooperation with the Nazi regime (and notorious production of Xyklon-B), thus leaving its patents for the taking. How the AEG patents were voided is a mystery to me, but perhaps some knowledgeable reader might enlighten us.
In one scene Gestapo agents are shown recording a telephone call.
Unfortunately, they are using a tape recorder (as opposed to a metal
wire one). Tape recording did not exist until 1947, well after the
Before that, as seen in movies like "Walk a Crooked Mile," agents used a shellac disk or, later on, a wire recorder which had as its medium a metal wire. Another option was the Dictaphone which used a wax cylinder similar to the early Edison recording.
In the 1950's two-track recording was born and in the 1960's 4-track. I know this is incredibly boring but there is a minimum length for submitting comments.
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