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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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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:

Out of Europe's Blackout of Peace ... Flames the Inside Story of Submarine Warfare and International Espionage 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

This film was included in the first syndicated television presentation of a package of major studio feature films on USA television; it premiered in New York City Sunday 29 August 1948 on WPIX (Channel 11), followed by Baltimore Thursday 9 September 1948 on WMAR (Channel 2), by Philadelphia Friday 17 September 1948 on WFIL (Channel 6), by Boston Sunday 26 September 1948 on WBZ (Channel 4), by Chicago Monday 4 October 1948 on WGN (Channel 9), by Los Angeles Sunday 17 October 1948 on KTLA (Channel 5), and by Atlanta Wednesday 24 November 1948 on WSB (Channel 8). The package consisted of 24 Alexander Korda productions originally released theatrically between 1933 and 1942. See more »

Goofs

When Captain Hardt looks down at the British fleet from the house, the view that is shown from his binoculars is actually one from sea level, not the view one would expect from a high vantage point. 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

The distributor in the film's opening credits is shown as: KEY TO SUCCESS Key Films Distributors Ltd. presents See more »

Connections

Referenced in Churchill and the Cabinet War Rooms (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

The first Powell-Pressburger collaboration
5 November 1999 | by WatumaSee all my reviews

This is an entertaining, well-made spy adventure set during World War I. Although made 60 years ago, the film has a sophisticated approach to the relationship between its three main characters. In particular, the natural attraction between the parts played by Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson is portrayed believably. Many of the supporting characters are also interesting; look out for Hay Petrie as the Scottish engineer aboard a ferry and an early appearance by Bernard Miles as a hotel desk clerk. Unlike the majority of British movies of this period, the film doesn't stereotype or make fun of its working-class characters.

The story has several good twists and an ironic climax. There are also some improbable coincidences, but no more than the typical James Bond movie.

Unlike Bond, however, "The Spy in Black" adopts a quite dark tone in its final 20 minutes. There is an almost tragic dignity and regret in the final scenes.

Director Michael Powell composes some interestingly-framed shots that make good use of Vincent Korda's sets. One of his favourite devices is to set a key character in sharp focus in the background while lesser parts stand or move slightly out-of-focus in the foreground. The effect is often quite striking.

This film marks Powell's first collaboration with the Hungarian writer Emeric Pressburger. The maturity of the romance between the leads and the snappiness of the dialogue are probably attributable to Pressburger's European upbringing.

Despite its age, "The Spy in Black" is well worth seeing just for the simple pleasures of a well-made entertainment executed with a little more care and imagination than usual.


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