During the first world war, novelist Edgar Brodie is sent to Switzerland by the Intelligence Service. He has to kill a German agent. During the mission he meets a fake general first and then Elsa Carrington who helps him in his duty.Written by
Claudio Sandrini <email@example.com>
The Moral Ambiguity of Sanctioned Murder and Other Humorous Anecdotes.
Despite the abject absurdity of Hitchcock's "Secret Agent", I adored it.
The film starts off as a farcical story following John Gielgud and Madeline Carroll - two novice British spies - hunting down a German agent with the help of a more experienced man - "The General" - a Mexican hilariously played by Peter Lorre. With these principal players, it should be no surprise that the performances are top-notch. However, given the fact that Lorre was, at the time, at one of the lowest points in his tumultuous but brilliant career, it is possible that his over-the-top and uncharacteristically comedic performance at least began unintentionally (and was exploited by the great director as a last-ditch effort to complete the film successfully).
The story is based rather loosely on a Somerset Maugham story translated for theater by Campbell Dixon then adapted by Hitchcock favorite Charles Bennett. Quite a bit, as you can well imagine, changes as a result of the translations from medium to medium.
The drama turns on a developing romance between Gielgud and Carroll's characters - and the burgeoning consciences which accompany it. Will they be able to carry out their patriotic duty if and when they finally track down their opponent, or will they fail? Furthermore, what will the zealous and perhaps a little psychotic General do if his co-conspirators drop out of the spy business at the last instant? Typical Hitchcock plot devices (i.e. trains, quirky romantic relationships, European ethnic stereotypes) make cameo appearances at appropriate points in the story, and enhance the experience for Hitchcock aficionados.
The script and general story-line is not one of the best Hitchcock would have access to throughout his career, but it is quite rich compared to some of the plots he worked with earlier in his career, and the director develops the comedy, suspense, and human drama economically and affectively, if not fully. The camera-work is, of course, good, but not nearly as experimental or interesting as many of Hitchcock's earlier and later films. This is generally true of most of Hitchcock's excellent efforts for Gaumont British Pictures of America during the 1930s (I.e. Sabotage, 39 Steps, etc) - very British films made with American/British casts and production for an international audience.
Though less suspenseful than many of Hitchcock's contemporaneous efforts, Secret Agent remains a good and entertaining example of Hitchcock in the 1930s.
17 of 19 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this