(director: Harold S. Bucquet; screenwriters: from the story by John C. Higgins/John Lee Mahin/Miles Malleson/Howard Emmet Rogers; cinematographer: John J. Cox; editor: D. Myers; music: Hubert Bath; cast: Robert Donat (Captain Terence Stevenson, aka Jan Tartu), Valerie Hobson (Maruschuka Lanova), Walter Rilla (Inspector Otto Vogel), Glynis Johns (Paula Palacek), Phyllis Morris (Anna Palacek), Martin Miller (Doctor Novotny), Anthony Eustral (German MP Officer), David Ward (Bronte, the Underground Pilot), Percy Walsh (Dr. Willendorf), Hubert Leslie (Peter Valek, Shoemaker Contact); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Irving Asher; MGM; 1943-UK/USA)

“Robert Donat’s lively performance saves this ordinary spy caper from its conventional story line.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Robert Donat’s lively performance saves this ordinary spy caper from its conventional story line. Donat’s a Rumanian-born, fluent in Rumanian, Brit captain named Terence Stevenson, who is dispatched by his superiors to go undercover as a rakish Rumanian chemist and heroic member of the Nazi Rumanian Iron Guard to Czechoslovakia during World War II and destroy a poison gas plant (Skoda) experimenting with a deadly new chemical.

It’s filmed in MGM’s London studio and directed by American Harold S. Bucquet (“Young Dr. Kildare”), with the cast all Brits, and is based on a story by John C. Higgins, with a team of screenwriters that include John Lee Mahin and Howard Emmett Rogers.

After using his forged papers to get into Prague, Czechoslovakia, Jan’s shoemaker Underground contact (Hubert Leslie) is arrested and executed. Left without any other contacts, Jan dwells in a boarding house and is assigned to a munition plant. His landlady’s daughter Paula (Glynis Johns) assassinates a Nazi big shot and he alibis for her. This gets him to contact beautiful boarder tenant Maruschuka (Valerie Hobson), who pretends to have compromised herself to the Germans by dating generals but is really an Undercover agent. After first trusting him, Maruschuka’s crushed to learn that Paula is executed when Jan turned her in (it will be later made clear that he had no choice when she’s caught trying to load blank artillery shells by a Nazi officer and he’s present). This gets Jan transferred to the Skoda chemical plant, but he needs the Underground’s help to get explosives and arrange for his escape. How he contacts them is quite clever and risky. It ends with his mission accomplished and kissing Maruschuka as they fly back to England to flee the Nazis.

Walter Rilla plays the Nazi villain who stands in the way of Donat. Martin Miller plays the Underground leader.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”