21 December 2012 | kevinolzak
Good cast overcomes claustrophobic script
1957's "The Traitor" centers on a small band of resistance fighters whose leader was murdered by the Nazis after being betrayed by one of their members. Every year since the war's end, they all gather together in the English country home of Colonel Charles Price (Donald Wolfit), except that this time, the Colonel expects a visit from one Theodore Dehmel (Colin Croft), who will be flying in from Berlin, having discovered the traitor's identity. As had been the case during wartime, Price intends to dispense justice himself without any police involvement, but Dehmer arrives and promptly expires with a knife in his back, uttering the mysterious words, 'There's been a mistake.' Once the characters are introduced in the opening reel, the scene never leaves the Colonel's home, making for a claustrophobic screenplay that benefits hugely from its exceptional cast. As another commentator noted, the solution is ingenious, but without any concrete evidence that points to the guilty party. Most of the group are established as being German, except for the Swiss Alfred Baum (Frederick Schiller) and the Polish Joseph Brezina (Anton Diffring), the latter a brilliant concert pianist, allowing Diffring to display a more sympathetic side to his normally villainous countenance. The most notable supporting player is Christopher Lee, still a few months before his star making turn in Hammer's "The Curse of Frankenstein," and sporting a flawless German accent as Doctor Neumann, whose presence no doubt inspired the American distributor to change the generic British title from "The Traitor" to "The Accursed," giving it more of a horror slant. Seldom seen since the old days of black and white television, its obscurity seems destined to continue.