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USA 1939
Directed by
Anatole Litvak
102 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Confessions Of A Nazi Spy

This Warners semi-documentary style B grade is a wonderful piece of anti-Nazi/pro-American propaganda released only 6 months after the commencement of WW2 (the Warner offices in Berlin had been ransacked and an employee killed) with Edward G. Robinson in the role of FBI agent Ed Renard investigating a Nazi espionage ring.

The Nazis in their various guises are thuggish, ruthless, weazely, arrogant, cunning cowardly, collectively amounting to Evil personified. Pipe-smoking Robertson is of course the antithesis of this and the film wraps with a flag-waving paean to America's God-given obligation as the defender of the free world. Paul Lukas in a part he patterned on the Fuhrer himself plays dedicated National Socialist and German-American Bund leaser, Dr. Kassell, whilst Francis Lederer is the willing dupe of George Sanders' villainous Schlager.

The film stirred up so much controversy that in 1941, after several protestations by isolationists, Nazi sympathizers and those fearful of losing German business that the brothers Warner appeared before a Senate hearing investigating "moving picture propaganda" which fostered "war mongering". Harry Warner explained that the movie "correctly portrayed the operation of a Nazi spy ring in this country, as this operation was disclosed at a Federal trial which convicted the conspirators." Indeed, the film was based on a series of magazine articles by former FBI agent Leon G.Turrou concerning the spy case mentioned by Harry Warner and even showed some actual news clips from the 1937 trials of the four Nazis convicted of espionage.

Of course, the circumstances that inspired the film are long since gone, leaving it, despite it being a well-made film, largely of historical interest.




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