The Spy in Black (1939)


Personal opinion: “The Spy in Black” is a good spy film owing to Conrad’s performance. In order to promote better their motion picture, the famous team Powell and Pressburger made a publicity campaign in the Caligari type. So, people were invited to find out who “The Spy in Black” is, just the way they had been invited to become “Dr. Caligari” 20 years before. In my opinion, this film is technically good, but the script is nonsense and quite silly at times. Who couldn’t have recognized that the real teacher (June Duprez) and the fake teacher (Valerie Hobson) are not the same person? And how couldn’t such a clever man like Captain Hardt (Connie) understand that the teacher is a suspicious lady, whom he shouldn’t have confided in? And, furthermore, he proposes to her, not knowing that she is married to an officer (Sebastian Shaw) and that they are both on the other side than he is?! A very weak plot, that has some significance solely because of Connie’s superb acting. My favourite scene – which is the best in the whole film – is the one where Connie trully becomes “The Spy in Black”, and takes control over the ship where Hobson is, and then he dies after the rival ship is sunk by his German submarine. They tried very hard to imitate the plot of “Dark Journey”, with a mysterious lady, who is a double agent, and with several fights oversea, but there is no comparison between these two films. In my opinion, “Dark Journey” is superior, and Vivien Leigh’s performance is also superior to Valerie Hobson’s (note that “The Spy in Black” should have been another opportunity for Vivien to appear again with Conrad on screen, but she left at the last moment to Hollywood, where she became the legend we all know). But, for those who appreciate patriotic films and real heroes like Captain Hardt, then you will certainly enjoy this British production released in 1939, by the beginning of WWII – in fact, this is the main reason why the film was so successful and acclaimed by the public at that time.


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