Edited by Gordon Gates on 9/6/2015, 6:51 pm
This wartime thriller is a spy film with a very noir like atmosphere. The headliners are played by James Mason, Carla Lehmann, Walter Rilla, Enid Stamp-Taylor, Pamela Stirling and Leslie Bradley. The film is directed by the under-rated George King.
The film is set just before the US/UK invasion of Vichy Algeria in Nov 1942. American Carla Lehmann gets herself mixed up with British secret agent James Mason. Mason is on the lam from the Nazis who are dogging his every step. It is all about a camera and film both sides want. Mason breaks into Lehman's house looking for some food and a place to lay low.
Lehman, in Algeria visiting her aunt, pulls a pistol on Mason and prepares to summon the Police. Mason tells her a tale of needing help evading the Nazi types chasing him. Mason appeals to her patriotism and asks for her help. Lehmann agrees and stashes Mason under some stairs just as the Nazi's arrive.
The chief villain here, played brilliantly by Walter Rilla, is a smooth talking killer in a nice suit. Lehmann pretends to know nothing about any "prowler" in the area. Rilla does not buy her act for a moment, but begs her pardon and leaves.
Mason, rested up and fed, asks Lehmann to meet him in 2 days in Casablanca. He wants her to visit a woman, Enid Stamp-Taylor, there. This is where the all-important camera and film are hidden. Along the way Lehman notices she has picked up a Gestapo tail.
Once Lehmann gets hold of the camera, the hi-jinks start, with Lehmann, Mason and the Germans in a cat and mouse game through the night time alleys etc of Casablanca. Mason gets the film developed and they discover that it is a map showing a secret meeting location on the Algerian coast.
At the meeting will be American, UK and rebel Vichy French military types. This is all to lay out the times and places for the Allied Invasion of North Africa. The Germans want the meeting location so they can swoop in and capture everyone.
Also in the mix here, is Pamela Stirling as a French barmaid, and Leslie Bradley as a Vichy officer helping the Allies. Rilla nearly puts the grab on Mason but is interrupted by Miss Lehmann. There is a quick exchange of blows with the Nazi being laid low. The pair then swipe Rilla's car and speed off to the now, not so secret location. Mason wants to warn whoever about the German plot.
And as it would so happens, the meeting is in full bloom with Allied and Vichy types settling the invasion details. Speed is of the essence here, as Rilla has recovered from his thumping and is in hot pursuit. Mason and Lehmann reach the house and deliver the warning. And just in time as some Vichy French Policemen are snooping around nearby.
The meeting is wrapped up and the Allied officers retreat to a waiting submarine. Mason and Lehmann now lead Rilla and company on a wild car chase along the coast. Lehman is shoved out of the car and Mason roars off into the night. Lehmann wakes up in a hospital wondering if Mason made it to safety. Needless to say he now puts in an appearance.
Plenty of pace here with director King keeping things hopping. King was best known for a string of Tod Slaughter films such as, SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, THE FACE AT THE WINDOW and THE CRIMES OF STEPHEN HAWKE. King also helmed a pair of first rate film noir, THE SHOP ON SLY CORNER and FORBIDDEN.
The look of the film is excellent with two time BAFTA nominated (one time winner) Otto Heller handling the cinematography duties. The whole production is filmed at night with plenty of nice shades of black and grey. Heller's work includes, THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE, NOOSE, QUEEN OF SPADES, THE CRIMSON PIRATE, THE SQUARE RING, THE LADYKILLERS, RICHARD III, THE SILENT ENEMY, ALFIE and his BAFTA winner, THE IPCRESS FILE.
There is some real witty dialogue supplied by screenplay writers, Brock Williams, Kate Strueby and John Clements working from a Dorothy Hope story. Several of the better cracks are, Miss Lehmann telling a Nazi officer to try some "prairie oysters". (bull testicles) Villain Rilla has a great line when he tells Vichy officer, Bradley, "The French are good at appearing to be Brave."
A much better film than I was expecting. Canadian Carla Lehmann was in several wartime thrillers such as, SECRET MISSION and COTTAGE TO LET