A man in London tries to help a counterespionage agent. But when the agent is killed and the man stands accused, he must go on the run to both save himself and also stop a spy ring which is trying to steal top secret information.
While holidaying in Switzerland, Lawrence and his wife Jill are asked by a dying friend, Louis Bernard, to get information hidden in his room to the British Consulate. They get the information, but when they deny having it, their daughter Betty is kidnapped. It turns out that Louis was a Foreign Office spy and the information has to do with the assassination of a foreign dignitary. Having managed to trace his daughter's kidnappers back to London, Lawrence learns that the assassination will take place during a concert at the Albert Hall. It is left to Jill, however, to stop the assassination. Written by
When the man is shot through the window, near the beginning of the film, just before he is shot, he turns to face another man. At that time, you can see the beginnings of a blood stain on his shirt next to his lapel...*before* he's shot. See more »
The arm of the English law needed help in taking our friend to the station - very, very reluctantly. I've given him in charge.
For disorderly conduct in a sacred edifice.
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Hitccock's first major release in the USA and Peter Lorre's first English-speaking role are two firsts scored by this 1934 thriller. This is, of course, also Hitchcock's first attempt to to make this film. His second, released in the mid-50s was more successful and better funded. This very British and relatively pithy film retains most of the character of Hitchcock's earlier efforts, but is lean and economical, with less camera play and simpler cinematography and pacing.
The acting is generally very good. Of the main cast, Nova Pilbeam, who plays the kidnapped daughter of Leslie Banks and Edna Best, is the only survivor today, at the age of 87. Most of the action centers on Banks,and he is fine, but (and I tend to think this is Hitchcock's doing) very emotionally compressed throughout the film. Banks' Bob Lawrence has a loving, flirty, wife (Best) and a delightful young daughter (Pilbeam). They are away on holiday in the alps when a new friend of their is shot dead while dancing with Best. As he dies, he passes along some information which creates the family's predicament. Lorre and his people kidnap young Pilbeam in exchange for Banks' silence, and he must then decide what to do. It seems that no matter what he does, his daughter is likely to die.
It is remarkable that Lorre did not even know what he was saying throughout most of this performance. The legendary actor, as usual, dominates all of his scenes and gives the film a creepy, psychotic feeling that would have been difficult to achieve without him.
The plot is a bit light on logic, but brisk, satisfyingly convoluted and entertaining. The script is OK, but often maintains too stiff an upper lip. A few opportunities for elaboration were missed - probably a limitation inherent in the original Wyndham Lewis story. I think it would have been interesting (and more credible) if the authorities had followed up on their knowledge that Banks knew something and trailed him throughout the film. This could have added an extra layer of potential suspense, mystery and obfuscation, since Best's heightened paranoia might have lead him to suspect all sorts of things about anybody keeping tabs on him.
Hitchcock definitely knew he had a potential gem here, and it is a credit to him that he revitalized the film with Jimmy Stewart in the 1950s - after establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with.
Worth seeing for Hitchcock fans and those interested in early British film as well as fans of the 1950s version. O/w only very mildly recommended.
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