The Adventures of Tartu (1943) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • 1940. Captain Terence Stevenson with the British Army is part of the bomb disposal unit in London, his primary job to defuse them. Despite having no experience as a spy, he is asked by his superiors, because of his academic background as a chemical engineer and being fluent in Romanian and German, to lead a spy mission deep in Nazi occupied territory. The Nazis have near perfected a formula for a new poisonous gas to use in chemical warfare, his mission to infiltrate the gas plant near Pilsen in Czechoslovakia where it is being mass produced, steal the formula to bring back to Britain, and blow up the plant before the Nazis are able to distribute the gas for their war effort. He is to assume the identity of chemical engineer Jan Tartu of the Romanian Iron Guard, the real Tartu who the Nazis are unaware has been killed. To carry out his mission, Stevenson will require the assistance of the underground in Czechoslovakia, he given the name of a contact through which he is to work. Stevenson's path into Pilsen is not a completely problem-free one, he needing to improvise, most specifically in the means to contact the underground. In this light, he has to learn who he can and cannot trust, especially among those with who he is assigned to live: Anna and Paula Palacek, the owner of the rooming house and her daughter who works at the gas plant; Otto Vogel, an inspector the Nazis have assigned to be his guide; and Maruschuka Lanova, a beautiful young woman who has a sense of entitlement and who uses her feminine wiles to get what she wants, most specifically from Nazi officers such as Vogel who is in love with her. Conversely, those secretly working for the Allied cause may have to figure out on their own if their intuition tells them that "Tartu" is really on their side.

  • Stevenson, a British soldier fluent in Rumanian and German, goes undercover to sabotage a German poison-gas factory. He turns himself into Jan Tartu, a member of the Rumanian Iron Guard. But when his contacts are destroyed, his cover may get him killed by the very underground he needs to succeed.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In 1940, demolition expert Captain Terrence Stevenson, an Englishman born in Romania and educated in Germany, is summoned to the Foreign Office. Because Stevenson knows both Romanian and German fluently, he is asked to go on a mission disguised as Romanian chemical engineer Jan Tartu and destroy a poison gas factory in Czechoslovakia. After parachuting into Romania, "Tartu," dressed as a dandy and assuming the air of a gigolo, travels toward Czechoslovakia, pretending to be sympathetic to Germany and wanted by the Romanian people because of it. Arriving in Czechoslavakia, Tartu stops at the shop of his contact, a shoemaker. Before putting Tartu in touch with the underground, the shoemaker is arrested in a Gestapo raid, but Tartu escapes. Wearing a German uniform, Tartu then goes to work at a war materiel plant and is told to keep his eyes open for Czechs who try to stop production. At his hotel, he encounters Marúschka Brunn, a formerly wealthy Czech who fraternizes with the Germans and flaunts her distaste of her own people. One day, a woman is shot for sabotage at the plant and landlady Anna Palacek's daughter Pavla, who works at the plant, arrives at home very upset. When German officers arrive to investigate the death of a fellow officer, Tartu gives her an alibi and hides a gun for her. Pavla and Anna now say that they will do anyting for him and he reveals that he must contact the underground to fulfill a secret mission. A short time later, Marúschka asks to see him and he invites her for dinner at a nightclub. They begin to realize their mutual attraction, and, as he gets to know Marúschka, Tartu deduces that she is really anti-Nazi. In the restaurant's garden, each decides to take a chance on the other. She tells him that she works with Pavla in the underground and will put him in touch with her compatriots. The next day, Pavla is caught in an act of sabotage. Because the Gestapo know that Tartu has seen it, Pavla secretly implores him to save himself and give her away. To fulfill his mission, Tartu does so, and she is shot. Meanwhile, Marúschka goes to the underground council and tells them about Tartu, but when they inform her about what happened to the shoemaker and Pavla, she concludes that he is really a Nazi. They then order her to "eliminate" him. After talking with Anna, Marúschka decides that "one Nazi should get rid of the other." She goes to Inspector Otto Heidrich, a Nazi admirer staying at the hotel, and convinces him that Tartu is a spy. She asks Otto not to call the Gestapo, but to take care of Tartu himself to further his career. They plot to kill Tartu that evening, and she arranges to meet Tartu on the nightclub's terrace. She tells Tartu that she is not a member of the underground, and, as he relates that he is being transferred the next day, Otto prepares to kill him. Just then, however, all officers are ordered to review everyone's papers, and when a young man is killed escaping, Otto's plan is interrupted. In the morning, Tartu reports to the poison gas works and is told that he must memorize the gas's secret formula quickly because the gas will be shipped in two weeks. That night, he goes to a bar and, pretending to be roaring drunk, boasts of his knowledge of the underground. When he leaves, members of the underground follow him, knock him out and take him away. When he comes to, he tries to convince them that he is a British agent, even when they say that they are actually the Gestapo. After they realize that Tartu is telling the truth, they offer to help him sabotage the poison gas bombs. To do this, they create very powerful but tiny bombs that Tartu can smuggle into the plant. Next morning, Otto confirms to Marúschka his findings that Tartu is not a Nazi. Now concerned for Tartu's safety, she starts to flirt with Otto and suggest that he delay calling in the Gestapo to keep the credit for exposing Tartu for himself, then knocks him unconscious. With Anna's help, she quickly leaves after realizing that Otto is dead and goes to the gas works and asks to speak with Tartu, coyly pretending to be his girl friend. She warns Tartu, but he says he cannot leave and tells her to inform the underground that he is planting the bombs right away. As he furiously places the bombs, there is an announcement on the loud speaker that exposes him as a spy. After a desperate chase, he is finally able to escape just before the gas works is sealed off and is picked up by the underground as the explosions begin. Because Marúschka has now become a liability, the underground decides to send her away, and she happily escapes with Tartu in a stolen Nazi airplane.

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