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CONSPIRATORS, THE (director: Jean Negulesco; screenwriters: from the book The Conspirators by Frederic Prokosch/Vladimir Pozner/ Jack Moffitt/Leo Rosten; cinematographer: Arthur Edeson; editor: Rudi Fehr; music: Max Steiner; cast: Hedy Lamarr (Irene), Paul Henreid (Vincent Van Der Lyn), Sydney Greenstreet (Ricardo Quintanilla), Peter Lorre (Bernazsky), Victor Francen (Hugo Von Mohr), Joseph Calleia (Capt. Pereira), Steven Geray (Dr. Schmitt), Kurt Katch (Otto Lutzke), Eduardo Ciannelli (Col. Almeida), Carol Thurston (Rosa), Vladimir Sokoloff (Miguel); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jack Chertok; Warner Brothers; 1944)
“Be warned, the spy film pales with the stiff Henreid taking up all the screen time instead of the smooth Bogie.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A hokum romantic WW11 spy tale, much in the same light as Casablanca but not with all the same successes and flourishes. Veteran director Jean Negulesco lets it sag in parts with too many contrivances and a plot line that is too derivative. Nevertheless it exudes style and its fast-pace and fine cast ensures its entertainment value.

The narrative centers on the notorious “Flying Dutchman,” Vincent Van Der Lyn (Paul Henreid), a fugitive underground resistance leader from Holland who heads for a 36-hour stopover in neutral Lisbon before continuing on to his secret mission in England. Vincent was a teacher in Holland who was arrested by the Nazis for teaching subversive material about freedom. He escaped imprisonment and has been hooked up with the international underground anti-Nazi movement ever since.

While dining alone and ordering steak in a Lisbon restaurant, where he’s to make contact with a member of the local underground conspirators, a frantic pretty lady named Irene (Hedy Lamarr) joins him as she’s fleeing from the police after the man she passed on a note to was slain but managed to burn the message. It turns out she’s married to an official from the German embassy Hugo Von Mohr (Victor Francen), which leaves Vincent not trusting her. When Vincent spends a romantic afternoon alone with Irene and returns to his hotel to brief the secret agent in his knowledge of Nazi procedures as arranged by the local underground leader Ricardo Quintanilla (Sydney Greenstreet), he finds the agent just before he dies urging him to contact Quintanilla to tell him that the killer took the valuable coin. The police were tipped off and Vincent gets arrested for the murder by Capt. Pereira’s men of the Portuguese police. In a daring escape, Vincent returns to the fishing village outside of Lisbon where one of the spies, Bernazsky (Peter Lorre), arranged for him to find safety with freedom supporter Miguel. Through Miguel’s daughter Rosa, Vincent again makes contact with the local underground. Quintanilla believes there’s a traitor among his spy network and sets a trap for that person in the casino.

Though Henreid is in constant peril he finds time to have an affair with Lamarr (Who could blame him?). The noirish camerawork by cinematographer Arthur Edeson adds to the intrigue. It’s not Casablanca but might do if you need a quick fix in Nazi spy flicks. But be warned, the spy film pales with the stiff Henreid taking up all the screen time instead of the smooth Bogie.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”