(director/writer: Fritz Lang; screenwriters: Albert Maltz/Ring Lardner Jr./original story by Boris Ingsterand John Larkin/from the book by Alastair MacBain and Corey Ford; cinematographer: Sol Polito; editor: Christian Nyby; music: Max Steiner; cast: Gary Cooper (Professor Alvah Jesper), Lilli Palmer (Gina), Vladimir Sokoloff (Dr. Polda ), Robert Alda (Pinkie), J. Edward Bromberg (Trenk), Charles Marsh (Erich), Majorie Hoshelle(Ann Dawson), Helene Thimig (Dr. Katerin Loder), Dan Seymour (Marsoli), Marc Lawrence (Luigi), James Flavin (Col. Walsh), Ludwig Stossel (The German); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Milton Sperling; Warner Bros.; 1946)

Old-fashioned espionage tale.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A rigid Gary Cooper is miscast as a brilliant American Midwestern University nuclear scientist, Professor Alvah Jesper, recruited during the last stages of World War II as a spy by the OSS, the Cloak and Dagger boys, because he speaks German and is already working for the government on its secret atomic project. Jesper’s mission is to get the scoop on where the Nazis are at in developing the atomic bomb, after it’s learned through intelligence that large shipments of pitchblende, material that is needed for the development of nuclear power is being shipped to Germany from all over Europe. Coop’s presence turns it into a thriller and takes away the thinking part to the espionage story. Lilli Palmer flatly plays an Italian freedom fighter, who hooks up with Coop on his mission. Their romance is insipid.

Director Fritz Lang (“The Spiders”/”Woman in the Moon”/”Scarlet Street”) films it in black and white and works in a seemingly disinterested manner with a routine B film plot, courtesy of the tiresome script by Albert Maltz and Ring Lardner Jr., in this old-fashioned espionage tale that’s too dull, lumbering and humorless to make much of an impact, even though it has a few slick intriguing wartime moments (the best being the failed rescue attempt in an isolated chalet of an Hungarian scientist, Dr. Loder (Helene Thimig), who is attempting to go over to the Americans before kidnapped by the Germans in neutral Switzerland). It’s based on the non-fiction book by Alastair MacBain and Corey Ford. The original story is by Boris Ingsterand John Larkin. Supposedly the Cooper character channels atomic scientist and creator of the A-bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, of the Manhattan Project. In the end credits we’re told all the names used are fictitious, but it’s based on actual events.

Lang’s more downbeat ending and less accepting belief that the A-bomb is in good hands with the Americans or any country, has the Nazi scientists discovering how to make an atomic bomb and escaping to Argentina. But Warner Bros. stepped in and forced a happy ending, whereby the Italian nuclear scientist, Dr. Polda (Vladimir Sokoloff), forced to work for the Nazis because they threaten to harm his beloved daughter, is rescued by the efforts of special agent Pinkie (Robert Alda) and the bravery of the Cooper and Palmer characters. Polda is brought to America, where he can again be a scientist who believes in a ‘free science in the service of humanity.’ Gina stays behind to continue to fight the Nazis, as Jesper, now assuredly knowing the Yanks are ahead of the Germans in the race for the bomb, heads back to his American university post to work on making the bomb and promises to return for Gina at the war’s end.