7.0/10
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17 user 23 critic

The Spy in Black (1939)

A German submarine is sent to the Orkney Isles in 1917 to sink the British fleet.

Director:

Michael Powell

Writers:

J. Storer Clouston (story), Emeric Pressburger (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
4,574 ( 17,233)
1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Conrad Veidt ... Captain Hardt
Sebastian Shaw ... Ashington
Valerie Hobson ... The School Mistress
Marius Goring ... Schuster
June Duprez ... Anne Burnett
Athole Stewart Athole Stewart ... The Rev. Hector Matthews
Agnes Lauchlan Agnes Lauchlan ... Mrs. Matthews
Helen Haye ... Mrs. Sedley
Cyril Raymond ... The Rev. John Harris
George Summers George Summers ... Captain Ratter
Hay Petrie Hay Petrie ... Engineer
Grant Sutherland Grant Sutherland ... Bob Bratt
Robert Rendel ... Admiral
Mary Morris ... Chauffeuse
Margaret Moffat Margaret Moffat ... Kate (as Margaret Moffatt)
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Storyline

When a German U-Boat captain is sent on a spying mission to the North of Scotland during World War One, he finds more than he bargained for in his contact, the local schoolmistress. Written by Ian Harries <ih@doc.ic.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Enemy U-Boat commander sails under orders of death! Lovers trapped in the cruel inferno of war! See more »

Genres:

Thriller | War

Certificate:

See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | German

Release Date:

7 October 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Spy in Black See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

£47,300 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film begins on Saturday March 17th 1917. See more »

Goofs

There has never been a HMS Connaught in the British Navy. See more »

Quotes

The Reverand John Harris: That medal ribbon. I don't seem to recognise it. What is it?
Captain Hardt: The Iron Cross... Second Class.
The Reverand John Harris: Second Class... then you must be a prisoner of war?
Captain Hardt: No.
[draws gun]
Captain Hardt: You are.
The Reverand John Harris: Oh dear.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: KIEL BASE OF THE GERMAN GRAND FLEET 1917 See more »

Connections

Featured in Dad's Army: The Big Parade (1970) See more »

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User Reviews

 
An Intriguing Little Thriller with a Difference
3 May 2002 | by bobwestal-2See all my reviews

Just wanted to second the other user's comment.

I saw this last night as part of a Michael Powell/Emeric Pressberger retrospective underway at the American Cinemetheque. There are some unlikely aspects to the plot, but on the whole this is well crafted WWI thriller with a remarkable level of moral complexity, especially given that it was made and released just as England was entering a second war against Germany.

The protagonist (hero?) (played by the extraordinary Conrad Veidt) is a German officer on a spy mission and he is, in many respects, a quite admirable character. For the first half of the film, it's almost entirely from his point of view. It's hard to imagine Hollywood filmmakers EVER having the confidence that Powell and Pressberger clearly had in the intelligence of their audience, allowing them to actually like and admire an enemy agent.

While "The Spy in Black" eventually does come down squarely on the side of the English, the agents of the Kaiser come off only as perhaps a hair more ruthless than those fighting for king and country.

Of course, the Germany that England would be fighting within a few a few months would be far, far worse. This film is a potent reminder that while World War II might have a morally clear "good" war because of the vast evil of the Nazis, World War I was a horse of a far grayer color.

With sophisticated, occasionally black humor, this is a neat bit of old-fashioned movie entertainment with some genuinely intriguing differences. Enthusaistically recommended.


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