2 December 2014 | robert-temple-1
Excellent fifties spy thriller
This is a superb espionage film set early in the Cold War. Tyrone Power makes the perfect lead, because he always had that quality of looking innocent and puzzled in the trickiest of situations, inevitably summoning plenty of noble resolution while never looking worldly wise about it. In this story, he is a diplomatic courier working for the American State Department. It is his job to carry important diplomatic communications by hand from country to country. He carries them in a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. He wears two watches at once, one for the time at home and one for the time of his destination. However, Power becomes embroiled in a fantastically complicated espionage affair and ends up being used as a pawn in a complex game of intrigue which few can understand. He become involved with two mysterious women, who may or may not be femmes fatale. One is Patricia Neal, who plays a wealthy American widow on the make. She comes across as too good to be true, and for a while we suspect her of overacting. But then her true nature comes out, and we discover how evil she really is. When she starts playing her character's true self, she is terrifying. The other mysterious woman is played by the German actress Hildegard Neff, a mysterious beauty who was at the peak of her American popularity at this time. The film also features Karl Malden in a supporting role, where he is particularly good and shows the promise of his career which was to come. Much of the film is shot in Trieste, which one of the characters describes as being a hotbed of spies of all kinds, like Lisbon during the War. This film has a great deal of postwar atmosphere and suspense and is only one notch down from the more brilliant works of Hitchcock and Carroll Reed. The director was Henry Hathaway, an old pro who could make the telephone book look interesting, The film is full of double agents, betrayal, duplicity, baffling situations, and murder. The film moves at quite a pace and is never dull for a moment. The availability of this classic now on DVD is a welcome addition to the finer cinematic portrayals of early Cold War paranoia and deception. It is interesting historically as well as cinematically, and we get to see a lot of location shots which evoke the era.