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A British petty criminal lies to his son about his frequent prison terms by inventing honorable plausible explanations for his absences from home but things get complicated when his son becomes a judge's assistant.
The film is based on the actual events of the Portland Spy Ring trial in the U.K. A disgruntled Navy Clerk is transferred to a secret research establishment and is subsequently black-mailed/paid by Czech intelligence to procure secrets for them. He seduces the secretary who controls the most secret documents, and they enjoy the fruits of their treachery until the British authorities begin to close in on them. Written by
Tom Longshaw <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This film has recently been released on DVD under its original title of RING OF SPIES. It is an excellent film, and a fascinating dramatization of the notorious 1950s Gordon Lonsdale spy case, better known as the 'Portland Spy Ring' in Britain. The film is made with a documentary attitude, and a great deal of verisimilitude is added to the film through the use of a wide variety of genuine locations (i.e., Ruislip Station because the Krogers really lived there). Many of the location scenes are genuinely fascinating on their own account. For instance, this film may contain the only surviving extended footage of the roof terrace at Derry and Tom's Department Store in London at that time. No expense was spared to give this film all the location shooting it needed, and the producer Sidney Gilliat was clearly not shouting at the director to get back into the studio and save some money. The director was Robert Tronson, a talented director who has always been under-estimated because most of his work was for television. He directed some of the most popular series on British television, such as THE DARLING BUDS OF MAY (1991-3), BERGERAC (1983-8), and ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL (1978-88). The casting of this film was impeccable. William Sylvester is a smooth and affable charmer as the Russian spy Konon T. Molody, who masqueraded as a Canadian and an American under the pseudonym of Gordon Lonsdale. But Sylvester is a master at dropping that mask of affability as soon as his guests leave, and reverting to a grim and determined expression with ruthless immediacy. The finest performance in the film is by Bernard Lee as the alcoholic Henry Houghton who steals files from the safe at the Portland Naval Establishment so that the Soviets can learn all the British secrets about advanced submarine warfare. Two other reviewers have already provided background on the real spy case, so I shall not repeat it myself. The film wisely suggests that the drunken Houghton would never have been tolerated at Portland if he had not been protected by someone higher, which is doubtless true, considering how riddled with spies for foreign powers the Foreign Office has always been. This film is very well worth watching, both for entertainment and for historical purposes, and the location shots really are worthwhile.
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