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Blackout (1940)

Contraband (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Romance | 29 November 1940 (USA)
Early in World War II, Danish sea captain Andersen, delayed in a British port, tangles with German spies.

Director:

Michael Powell

Writers:

Emeric Pressburger (original story & screenplay), Michael Powell (scenario) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Conrad Veidt ... Capt. Andersen
Valerie Hobson ... Mrs. Sorensen
Hay Petrie Hay Petrie ... Axel Skold / Erik Skold
Joss Ambler Joss Ambler ... Lt. Cmdr. Ashton, RNR
Raymond Lovell Raymond Lovell ... Van Dyne
Esmond Knight ... Mr. Pidgeon
Charles Victor Charles Victor ... Hendrick
Phoebe Kershaw Phoebe Kershaw ... Miss Lang
Harold Warrender Harold Warrender ... Lt. Cmdr. Ellis, RN
John Longden ... Passport Officer
Eric Maturin Eric Maturin ... Passport Officer
Paddy Browne Paddy Browne ... Singer in 'Regency'
Henry Wolston Henry Wolston ... First Danish Waiter
Julian Vedey Julian Vedey ... Second Danish Waiter
Sidney Monckton Sidney Monckton ... Third Danish Waiter (as Sydney Moncton)
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Storyline

This is the tale of life in a British port in the first year of World War II. Spies and smugglers abound in the blackout and unreal shore life of the "phoney war" (before the shooting started). Written by Steve Crook <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Stop that man and woman! His mission is deadlier than that of the enemy in the sky. Her beauty is a dangerous weapon of war!


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | Danish

Release Date:

29 November 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Blackout See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

£47,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

British National Films See more »
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 takes place in November 1939. See more »

Quotes

Lt. Cmdr. Ashton, RNR: We've seized your cargo. It's contraband.
See more »

Crazy Credits

"White Negro" caberet designed & executed by Hedley Briggs. See more »

Alternate Versions

Eight minutes were cut from Contraband for its U.S. release; some just snips here and there, others more major. The most regrettable loss is the opening minutes of Veidt's and Hobson's table scene at the Three Vikings Restaurant, which in the U.S. version begins at the point when Veidt and Hobson begin drinking together and look at Veidt's watch. Another cut sequence shows black male dancers and white female dancers in a nightclub production number [The "White Negro" cabaret designed & executed by Hedley Briggs], a racial combination that would have outraged much of white America at the time, especially in the Southern states. See more »

Connections

References Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922) See more »

Soundtracks

Face in the Crowd
(uncredited)
Music by Richard Addinsell
Lyrics by Nicholas Phipps
See more »

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User Reviews

 
CONTRABAND (Michael Powell, 1940) ***1/2
10 November 2006 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

This is a follow-up to THE SPY IN BLACK (1939) - utilizing the same director, writer and stars - and even better! It's described as a Hitchcockian comedy-thriller - though still every bit an "Archers" product - which only goes to show that the Master Of Suspense lost something by going to the US (the English films being more deliberately stylized); the second of 5 collaborations by the Powell/Pressburger team designed as propaganda for the war effort - each more ambitious and uncharacteristic of the typical British effort than the one before!

It's fast-paced and plot-packed, with several marvelous suspense scenes, but also excellent characterization all around - and a splendid cast: Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson are supported by a wonderful dual role from Hay Petrie, Esmond Knight, and even early villainous turns by Leo Genn and Peter Bull (dubbed "The Brothers Grimm" by Veidt's Captain Hans Andersen!) - with bits by Torin Thatcher and an especially nice one involving Bernard Miles; The Archers also take care to provide the chief villain (played by Raymond Lovell) with a speech impediment - though not as a means of ridiculing him.

The London locations (shot by the great Freddie Young) are superbly deployed - given an extra Expressionist edge by being largely set during a blackout (actually, the film's title in the US). The Archers would come to be known for their occasional drop in taste, already evident here in an interracial cabaret number entitled "White Negro"! The terrific climax involves a chase intercut with a free-for-all.

I had long wanted to purchase the R1 DVD but kept postponing it due to the utter lack of extras and the prohibitive price (only managing to get it through Deep Discount's recent sale on Kino products!); still, the transfer is disappointing (and yet the only way the film is available for the moment!): bright, soft and probably PAL sourced (given that the running time is only 87 minutes against the official 92 - the sleeve notes thus making the mistake of stating that it's 8 minutes, rather than 12, longer than the version originally shown in the US!).


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