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Contemporary Reviews

Picturegoer & Film Weekly, October 14th 1939

Picture of Conrad Veidt (L) & Sebastian Shaw (R) with Valerie Hobson (Below).
(All looking stern)
Conrad Veidt, Valerie Hobson and Sebastian Shaw all give excellent performances in the topical film, "The Spy in Black."

*** The Spy In Black
Columbia. British. "U" certificate.
Naval melodrama.
Runs 82 minutes.
Conrad Veidt Captain Hardt
Sebastian Shaw Ashington
Valerie Hobson The Schoolmistress
Marius Goring Schuster
June Duprez Anne Burnett
Athole Stewart The Rev. Hector Matthews
Agnes Laughlin Mrs. Matthews
Helen Haye Mrs. Sedley
Cyril Raymond The Rev. John Harris
George Summers Captain Ratter
Hay Petrie Engineer
Grant Sutherland Bob Bratt
Robert Rendel Admiral
Mary Morris Chauffeuse
Margaret Moffatt Kate
Kenneth Warrington Commander Denis
Torin Thatcher Submarine officer
Directed by Michael Powell.
(Written by Emeric Pressburger)
Based on a story by J. Sorer Clouston.
Previewed August 12, 1939.

This picture has acquired topical interest since it was suggested by the ruthless U-boat campaign of 1917, which has a special application to the submarine campaign being waged in the present war.

   It is good to see Conrad Veidt back again, too, in a good picture, for however weary you may have become of spy stories you will feel that this one is out of the usual rut and is excellently acted in every department.

   It relies not only on its thrills but also on its decisive characterizations

   Conrad Veidt dominates the picture with a compelling performance as Captain Hardt, a German submarine commander who is dropped on one of the Orkney Islands to contact another agent. The period is that of 1917, when the submarine campaign was in full swing.

   Valerie Hobson is very good too, as a school mistress on the island, whom Hardt mistakes for his expected conferderate.

   She tells him that his orders are to sink fifteen British warships and that full details will come from a British officer in the pay of the Germans, Lieutenant Ashington.

   It then transpires that she is a British agent and the wife of Ashington, and that they are working in conjunction.

   Hardt smuggles himself aboard a ferry carrying prisoners of war by pretending to be a parson. Later he induces the prisoners to mutiny and takes command, only to be attacked by one of his own submarines.

   Excellent support comes from Sebastian Shaw, Marius Goring, Cyril Raymond and Hay Petrie.

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