7 August 2017 | robert-temple-1
Questionable goings-on in Istanbul
The one sentence introduction to the entry for this film on IMDb is erroneous. It says: 'A British agent travels to middle east during the war in order to spark a revolution.' This is wrong in every respect. James Mason is the lead, and he is not an agent. It is not during the War. And he wants to prevent, not spark, a revolution in Turkey. And he does not travel to the Middle East, he travels to Istanbul, which is not really the Middle East. This film has been reissued under its alternative title of THE SPY IN WHITE. The 'Stamboul' of the listed title is an old-fashioned spelling of Istanbul. There are two female leads, Kay Walsh as the daughter of an English businessman, and Valerie Hobson (with her eyes seeming much bigger than usual because her hair is pulled back for the entire film) as the young Russian exile, Baroness Tania Volkerov (or some such surname). There are quite a lot of location shots of Istanbul in this film. It was interesting to see the riverside at that time, which still had all the old Ottoman houses standing ranged right along the quays. Those are all gone now. There are two wicked villains in this film, both of them Turkish of course. One is played by Frank Vosper, and the other by Cecil Ramage. Vosper is slinky, sly, and murderous. Ramage is pompous, vain, vengeful, and power-mad. He wants to stage a coup against the Turkish Republic and reinstate the Sultanate, with himself as Sultan, naturally. Mason and Hobson want to stop him single-handed. Will they succeed? Can they do it? Will one of them be killed? Indeed, will two of them be killed? Will Ataturk's legacy be destroyed? (He is not mentioned by name, by the way.) Can the goodies stop the baddies? This is based on a novel by Dennis Wheatley entitled THE EUNUCH OF STAMBOUL, written with George Alexander Hill (1892-1968). Hill, later a Colonel, was a British intelligence officer with an adventurous career, who later taught Kim Philby how to use explosives. He published two volumes of memoirs. He was portrayed by Hugh Fraser in the 1983 television series REILLY: ACE OF SPIES. This film may not be deep or profound, but it does deal in serious issues to do with Turkey, a country which is still of great worry and concern today. James Mason has a thin moustache in this film, but I prefer him without one.