Circle of Deception (1960) Poster

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actually a remake of fox TV show
lqualls-dchin27 November 2006
When 20th Century Fox entered TV in the 1950s, one of the programs was an hour-long anthology series. This series took many Fox classics (THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR, HOUSE OF STRANGERS, MIRACLE ON 34th STREET, THE LATE GEORGE APLEY, YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, et al) and reduced them to less-than-an-hour. One of the entries in that series was titled DECEPTION, and it starred Linda Darnell and Trevor Howard; it was about a woman intelligence officer in charge of a complicated spy mission: she has to pick a man who will turn out to be a coward, so that he can be given false information which he will divulge (under torture) to the Nazis. Unless i'm very much mistaken, this is one instance when the TV episode was embellished into a feature film (made in 1961). The movie provides a lot more exposition, but the story is the same, including the female intelligence officer seeking out the man after the war. This film stars Suzy Parker as the intelligence agent, and Bradford Dillman as the man; soon after this movie, they would marry and she would retire from acting. Though they don't have the same depth as Darnell (an exceptional performance) and Howard, Parker and Dillman are nevertheless quite a glamorous couple (as they were in real life).

(Though the film is well-done, the TV show, in this instance, packed more of a punch, and the performances of Linda Darnell and Trevor Howard were exceptional.)
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good WW II movie
blanche-29 December 2006
Bradford Dillman is a soldier chosen for a dangerous mission in "A Circle of Deception," a 1960 film also starring Suzy Parker, Harry Andrews and Robert Stephens. The story is told in flashback as Paul Raine (Dillman) remembers his assignment after a visit by his ex-lover, Lucy (Parker).

In order to divert German troops from an attack site, Paul is chosen because according to his psychological profile, he will break under torture and give the Germans the information the Allies want them to have. Paul knows his mission is risky, but Lucy, an assistant to the captain (Andrews) who thought up this scheme, knows the entire story. She's enlisted to go out with Paul, since he seems interested, and evaluate if he's really the man for the job. She becomes a little more involved than planned.

Filmed in black and white, this isn't a big budget movie, but it's good. Dillman was a young star then under contract to 20th Century Fox, but despite being both attractive and a good actor, with the studio system abolished, he found most of his success in television. Parker, one of the first supermodels, was a staggering beauty who was given several opportunities in Hollywood. She was lousy in every one of them. Like Grace Kelly, she had a cool, sophisticated look, and also like Grace Kelly, in person she had a fantastic sense of humor and a wonderful personality - and like Grace Kelly, she never got one role to showcase them.

Though Dillman and Harry Andrew are both very good, it's Robert Stephens as the German captain who imprisons Paul that gives the most chilling performance. A brilliant stage actor, he's a knockout in this, and one wishes he had pursued more film work before his death in 1995. He could have had an Oscar-level career.

All in all, "A Circle of Deception" is very good, and the black and white helps to keep up the British wartime atmosphere. Dillman and Parker met during the making of this film, married in 1963, had 3 children, and stayed married until Parker's death in 2003. Her last work on film was in a 1970 "Night Gallery" episode, in which she looked absolutely gorgeous, but through the '50s, '60s (and possibly into the '70s) she was on every magazine cover and in every fashion layout imaginable.

The torture scenes are not for the feint of heart - to be honest, I fast-forwarded through them. The rest of the movie is both interesting and suspenseful.
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Pretty fair WWII spy-as-decoy movie
Aldanoli4 September 1999
Bradford Dillman is an American tapped for a dangerous mission behind enemy lines in the campaign of deception leading up to D-Day--except that he's only been told half the story by his superiors. The story is based on real-life exploits documented in Anthony Cave Brown's book *Bodyguard of Lies,* (the title of which was based on Churchill's famous comment, "In wartime, truth is so precious that she must always be attended by a bodyguard of lies"). Dillman is completely convincing as the spy who is selected precisely because his psychological profile shows that he *will* eventually break under torture. The depiction of torture itself is pretty grueling, by the way, especially for 1961, and one scene in particular was parodied in the 1984 Abrahams-Zucker movie *Top Secret!* (with Val Kilmer in the Dillman part). Incidentally, Dillman and his co-star, Suzy Parker, who was the top model in America at the time, and embarking on a film and television career, fell in love while making this movie and married shortly thereafter; she gave up both her modeling and acting career for domestic life as Mrs. Dillman not long afterward.
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Worth Looking Into
dougdoepke18 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I recall seeing this film on first release and being astonished by its cynical portrayal of Allied war planning. Except for an odd-man-out like Attack (1956), WWII was treated in this pre- Vietnam period as a difficult yet idealistic march to victory. There was little hint of such ruthless tactics as are portrayed here. Thus the movie's grim version of the logic of war became something of an eye-opener for a new generation used to less disturbing accounts of the people in charge.

I doubt that many people saw the film. It's not the kind of production that invites an audience, with its ugly b&w photography, deglamorized Suzy Parker, and downbeat 100 minutes. Then too, the screenplay's use of flashback undercuts the suspense in an odd dramatic turn, since we know from the outset that Lieut. Raine (Dillman) survives his ordeal no matter how bad it becomes. My guess is the producers wanted to reassure audiences from the outset that Raine was not being deliberately sent to his doom. That may have lightened the mood and lessened the guilt, but it comes at the expense of both impact and suspense.

Dillman's excellent as the conflicted Lieutenant, while Parker does a lot better than expected for an ex-super model. And, of course, there's jut-jawed Harry Andrews as the Machiavellian captain in charge, who gives his cynical scheme all the military authority of Moses passing down the Ten Commandments. Also, I like the way Capt. Stein, the lead Nazi interrogator, is portrayed against stereotype as a civilized, sympathetic type. In passing—note how the infamous water-boarding technique is used as a last resort to pry information from the hapless Raine, a surprisingly topical note from a 50-year old movie.

The movie makes a significant point, I think, whether the point was intentional or not. Now, the logic of war has long approved sacrificing a few men in order to save many more. It's not a happy logic, but it has a certain utilitarian morality to it—better to lose 10 men than 1000. At bottom, this is the accepted reasoning Capt. Rawson is applying to Lt. Raine—better to sacrifice this one man than the thousands who might otherwise be saved. So, why does the process of preparing Raine for sacrifice cause so much unease, as I think it does. There are several disturbing factors in play that are unlike more standard military situations.

Above all, Raine is not only being deceived about his mission, he's being exploited as a person whose frailties are being turned against him. Rawson is counting on fear of pain overcoming what shame Raine might feel as a result of being tortured into releasing information that will mislead German defenses. Thus it's not death that Rawson is counting on or that Raine is facing, instead it's permanent shame. As a result, it's not so much Raine's body that's being sacrificed to the Allied cause as it is his soul. Even if he survives, he will carry that burden of guilt and shame, which for the brave man Raine is, comes at the cost of his self-respect. And Rawson knows it. And that I think is what's so unsettling about the captain's scheme even though the military logic is pretty straightforward.

Anyway, I wish the movie had had the capacity to follow through on its provocative premise with an unhappy ending. That way I think it would have achieved some of the distinction of a Paths of Glory (1958) that did follow through on its cynical premise. But this was a studio production (TCF) and I guess as a business in 1960 they felt they could only go so far. However, note how the very last shot of the lovers reconciling is shot from an impersonal distance, thereby fulfilling story requirements but canceling the all-important emotional impact. Looks to me like some kind of effort at softening the happy ending. Compromised or not, the movie is still worth viewing for its provocative premise, though I wouldn't recommend it after a hard day at work.
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A movie with fatal flaws but worth watching anyway!
JohnHowardReid13 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Copyright 30 December 1960 by 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. New York opening at the Victoria: 17 February 1961. U.S. release: 8 February 1961. U.K. release: 29 January 1961. Australian release: 23 February 1961. 8,971 feet. 99 minutes.

COMMENT: For once, there was a pretty fair consensus among the critics as to the faults of this picture:

"A first-class idea for a spy story is unnecessarily spoiled in this otherwise more-than-competent programmer... Screenwriter Balchin should have known better than to put a 'frame' around the story and tell the heart of it in flashback. The easily foreseen result of such ineptitude is that the spectator's pleasure is spoiled by knowing how it all ends", wrote Flavia Wharton in Films In Review.

The reviewer for Variety also found "A weakness of the film is that it is revealed at the beginning that the hero gets through his ordeal safely." Time's critic tended to agree: "An ingenious spy thriller that raises subtle and uncomfortable questions of political morality. If a citizen betrays his country, the crime is called treason and the penalty, in wartime, is death. But what if a country betrays one of its citizens?"

As for myself, I concur with most of the above. Suzy Parker is certainly dull all the way through. And some of the other acting is suspect. One of the faults of British films is that most players make no attempt whatever at conveying foreign nationals. Bosley Crowther noted that "Robert Stephens plays a Nazi captain as if he were a product of an English public school," but Mr. Stephens is merely part of — rather than an exception to — the tradition.

Many of our problems center with the surrounding frame story which is not only poorly written but slackly directed too. Terseness and imagination from both quarters increase dramatically once the flashback starts. Here Balchin's suspenseful, to-the-point writing obviously incorporates his first-hand knowledge of the organizing and modus operandi of spying.

The budget appears quite lavish by British "A"-feature standards and CinemaScope is well utilized.
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A hero by any other name
tomsview2 December 2016
Years ago, I read "Op JB" by Christopher Creighton. It was published in 1996 and was supposedly true, telling of secret missions during WW2 carried out by the author. The veracity of the book is still debated.

I must admit I wasn't sure what to believe until I came to the part where the author claimed he was used by M-Section to persuade the Germans that the Allied invasion of Europe would focus on the Pas de Calais rather than Normandy. His superiors betrayed his identity as a British agent to the SS so that under torture he would confirm the story, which he thought to be true. He was then rescued by M-section and returned to Britain.

That's when I thought, "I know this story". It was the plot of "A Circle of Deception" starring Bradford Dillman, which I had seen in the 1960's. My belief in the book lessened considerably after I made that connection.

"A Circle of Deception" was a forerunner of the more cynical, anti-hero films about WW2 that hit with a vengeance in the 1960's. Then WW2 movies often became surrogates for the Vietnam War, which didn't get its own movies until it was over.

"Circle of Deception" didn't have massive stars. Bradford Dillman seemed a modern sort of actor mainly from television. His character, Captain Paul Raine, is chosen for the mission because it is believed he will crack under torture and give the Nazis the misinformation the British want them to have. Whatever baggage Dillman carried in 1960 is long gone; now he is convincing as the operative who wrestles to overcome his fears.

Harry Andrews as Captain Rawson the intelligence chief who devised the mission is perfect. Head of Section roles were an Andrews' specialty.

Suzy Parker played Lucy Bowen, Rawson's assistant who becomes romantically involved with Raine. Suzy had the look of those beautiful women that artists painted for the glossy magazine illustrations of the day; the camera loved her.

The interrogation scenes gave the film an edge, especially Robert Stephens as the urbane German intelligence officer who played good cop against the vicious Gestapo guys. Only the prison escape at the end smacked of standard movie heroics.

However, even after 50 years, this well-made film is still a bit of downer with its rather ruthless sacrifice of a British agent for the greater good.
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psychological warfare
RanchoTuVu17 December 2014
The British military brass led by Harry Andrews choose one of their own junior officers played by Bradford Dillman to go on a mission into Nazi-occupied France based on a psychological profile that he will crack under torture and reveal the false information they wish to have the Germans believe about the imminent D-Day invasion. Dillman is chosen for the mission on the recommendation of Suzy Parker, who plays Andrews administrative assistant. As a psychological drama Circle of Deception works fairly well. Parker is especially good at playing both ends, working to implement Andrews plan but also falling for Dillman. Dillman is good once he gets captured by the Germans, who torture him convincingly. After he breaks, Dillman's character has to live with himself, still believing that he let down the war effort by divulging true information.
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Upsetting story of the lies of war heroism
clanciai9 March 2019
This is a very late noir and very noir indeed, dealing with the aftermath of the war in 1946, when an earlier woman officer of intelligence tries to trace a lost war hero and finds him drinking in Tangiers. He treats her badly although they became all but lovers and tells her to go home and leave him alone - he even returns his Victoria Cross (or some medal) to her, totally bitter and disillusioned. After his bravery as a spy in France, being tortured by the Gestapo and SS and surviving it without breaking, for which he got his medal, he was sent to Burma and then was lost. But as she reappears in his life as a total surprise he starts to remember and finds it worth while to make a clean breast of what actually happened, and it is a fearful story. This is not for sensitive hearts, as the film implies a heart-breaking risk. But the story is extremely interesting and impressing, it brings oceans of afterthoughts, - mind you, it was towards the very end of the war when enterprises like Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were carried through deliberately with planned fire storms and no regard for the lives of civilians, and that mentality dominates the film, which will shock you, as it shocks Suzy Parker from beginning to end, but she fights it, and ultimately wins.
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Good but who really wants to watch a film where you see a guy get tortured??
MartinHafer8 March 2019
"A Circle of Deception" is an unusual and good film...though I don't heartily recommend you see it. This is because the story has a portion where the lead is tortured. It's not as vivid and brutal as the Nazis would have been...but it's still darned unpleasant.

Captain Paul Raine (Bradford Dillman) has been selected for a spy mission behind enemy lines during WWII. They say it's because he speaks French...but it's really because they think he'll crack under pressure and they arrange for his mission to fail. Why? Because they've fed him false information and hope to convince the Nazis of this lie. However, they never tell Raine...and a woman who has fallen for him knows the truth but she's ordered not to tell. What's next? Well, he's captured and tortured....but what's next might just come as a surprise to everyone.

The acting is good, the film well made. I have no real complaints other than the story makes for unpleasant viewing...and the very end, the final scene, didn't seem very realistic to me.
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I don't believe it! No one would do this to his own men!
kapelusznik1816 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
****SPOILERS**** The movie shows the lengths those during war time would go to achieve their missions. Even in the case of tricking the bright eyed and bushy tailed Canadian Leut. Paul Raine, Bradford Dillman, to not only go beyond the call of duty but death itself in unknowingly giving false information to the enemy by having it beaten and tortured out of him. Dropped into Nazi occupied France in the spring of 1944 Raine, who speaks perfect Franch, is told to contact the French underground in coordination with their attacks of German installations as the allies pull off their D-Day invasion. Unknown to Raine is that he's being set up with false information to be caught and tortured by the Nazi Gestopo to brake down and spill the beans on the invasion of Western Europe. That to make them think that the invasion is to take place some 200 miles away from it's original landing points!

Thinking he's doing the right thing Raine endures the most brutal torture including being water-boarding, a major war crime according to the Geneva War Accords of 1929, that Nazis could dish out. Only after the poison pill he was given by his boss Capt. Thomas Rawson, Harry Andrews, turned out to be a dud and thus prevented him from peacefully popping off and meeting his maker that the by now completely broken Raine finally gave in. Rescued by the French underground and given free passage to Tangier's Morocco after the war Raines is now a completely defeated and broken man feeling he let down his men in spilling the beans about where the cross channel invasion was to take place.

***SPOILERS*** It's when the person who help set, together with Capt. Rawson, Raine up Leut. Bowen, Suzy Parker,that the poor and confused Raine up came to see him at the Bal Aldo Bar & Hotel that he finally got the story straight: He's in fact a hero who gave his all including his sanity for the allied cause not a coward who sold his men, after being brutally tortured, out to the enemy! This was no surprise to those of us watching but only to Raine who in his depression never bothered to even read a newspaper or listen to a radio broadcast after he was rescued from his captors. And in fact thought all that time that he screwed up the D-Day invasion plans by the allies which in fact he helped make a complete and smashing success!
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Hard-hitting wartime thriller
Leofwine_draca21 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Another hard-hitting wartime thriller, CIRCLE OF DECEPTION sees Bradford Dillman's secret agent being sent into Nazi-occupied France to fulfil a special mission that he's not even aware of. This reminded me a lot of the Paul Massie film ORDERS TO KILL, except it's not quite as powerful, but it certainly packs a punch. The actors deliver realistic performances, none more so than Dillman, and it's certainly a psychological tour-de-force from our protagonist.
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The Allies send the Nazis a Trojan horse - a spy who will break and spill the beans.
Deusvolt9 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is a downer so I understand why many people didn't like it. But nevertheless it is important because it pioneered the concept of the sympathetic anti-hero as the main character in movies.

Spoilers ahead: Bradford Dillman's character is infiltrated into occupied France by the Allies (the devious British intelligence, actually). His mission: To prepare the French Resistance for the coming invasion which required him to eliminate a mole within the movement. The alleged enemy collaborator turns out to be a kindly and affable fellow who saves Dillman from eating cat disguised as rabbit in a restaurant. The old Frenchman explained that what he ordered was unlikely to be rabbit considering the rationing and severe shortage of food in occupied France. That scene is comic with the French guy saying "meow" after Dillman ordered rabbit. I believe the Darnell-Howard TV version, Deception, had the same scene.

In any case, Dillman is captured by the Germans, no doubt through the machinations of British intelligence. As planned by his controllers, under torture he spills what he believed were the details of the planned invasion of France by the Allies through Calais. Of course, we now know that Eisenhower's staff chose Normandy for the invasion landing. The Germans scramble to protect Calais while the Allies invade Normandy. Dillman is rescued by a commando unit and taken back behind Allied lines where he is congratulated for his contribution in making the invasion a success.

The hitch is that, he found out that he killed an innocent man. The old Frenchman was not a collaborator after all.

If you like spy-war movies with double deceptions see also 36 Hours starring James Garner and Rod Taylor.
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Don't Be Deceived by this Deception **
edwagreen28 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Bradford Dillman in a dilly of a movie with the late Suzy Parker.

The story concerns itself with British intelligence choosing someone they know will crack under Nazi torture and divulge secrets that will be false in nature pertaining to the D-Day invasion.

Naturally, the female (Parker) falls for our hero.(Dillman) Of course, Dillman surprises all by surviving the brutal torture. The picture was torture by itself, watching the torturing sequences was even worse. The worst part was that the suicide pill wasn't supposed to work so Dillman had to endure more. Poor Dillman. Poor audience.

This film at best is slow moving and tedious in many ways.
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More likely fiction than fact
malcolmgsw14 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This was not,as been claimed,the first of its genre.I can think of Orders To Kill made in 1958 with Paul Massie.To me if the Germans saw that the lethal pill did not work they would surely smell a rat and render the mission pointless.In any event Operation Fortitude was succeeding in giving the Germans a false impression of what was going to happen. It is nevertheless an entertaining film notwithstanding the lightweight leads.
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