Sunday, October 23, 2016

Horror Countdown 2016: Secret Agent (1936)

Secret Agent (1936) dir. Alfred Hitchcock, Gaumont British Picture Corporation

Moving into the director's section, we look at the early work of Alfred Hitchcock. The themes he would work with later are present here, showing us the master the man would become.

Captain Eddie Brodie (John Gielgud) is on leave during the Great War. He's looking forward to some much needed R & R, but there's a problem-he's dead.

At least according to the local papers at any rate; a man called R (Charles Carson) has Brodie brought before him. Captain Brodie is dead as a doornail, from henceforth he is now Richard Ashenden. Why the change? R works for the government and John Bull has a mission that only Ashenden can do. There is a foreign agent on his way to Arabia looking to stir up trouble for the Allies in the Middle East. Ashenden is the only one can identify the man. To assist him, he has been partnered with the General (Peter Lorre) or as he is better known, the Hairless Mexican. Even the General is confused by that, as he isn't a general, Mexican, and has a full head of hair.

The last man who tried to stop the agent believed him to be staying at the Hotel Excelsior in Switzerland. Ashenden and the General arrive, where they are greeted by Ashenden's wife, Elsa (Madeline Carroll). R felt a married couple wouldn't draw as much attention. Ashenden is more put off as Elsa wasn't coerced. No, she just volunteered 'cause it seemed like fun.

The hotel is busy despite there being a war going on. Robert Marvin (Robert Young) is a dashing fellow who seems quite taken with Elsa, never mind she's supposedly married. Then there is Mr. Caypor (Percy Marmont), a local mountaineer.

When their local contact is found dead, a button clutched in his hand, who did it? It looks like Caypor might be the suspect, so a quick 'accident' is arranged. Pity a telegram arrives the next day and informs the group that they screwed up-Caypor was no spy. Elsa is so distraught she leaves with Marvin on his trip to Turkey.

Ashenden and the General, however, find a German message meant for none other than...Marvin. Can they catch the two in time?

Not terrible, although there are too many moments that make you scratch your head. Apparently one can just ask the government to be a spy without any issue. Plus accidental homicide is more of a hassle than a crime.

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