Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: John Gielgud, Madeleine Carroll, Robert Young, Peter Lorre, Percy Marmont
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
One of Alfred Hitchcock's finest pre-Hollywood films, the 1936 Secret Agent stars a young John Gielgud as a British spy whose death is faked by his intelligence superiors. Reinvented with another identity and outfitted wit... more »
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Matt B. from GETZVILLE, NY
Reviewed on 8/19/2010...
I’ll always watch a movie based on the fiction of Somerset Maugham. And if Alfred Hitchcock directs, all the better. The screenplay for Secret Agent was based the short stories "The Traitor" and "The Hairless Mexican," which were from the Ashenden stories that helped to create the genre of spy fiction. Made in 1936, Secret Agent counts among Hitch’s movies made in his English period, before he moved to Hollywood in 1939. John Gielgud seems a little stiff as the hero. Peter Lorre steals a lot of scenes and probably improvised a lot so he ends up playing the Goofy Guy that Movie Land almost always assigned him. What a waste. Robert Young persuades us as a frank and fresh-faced American. Madeleine Carroll, though, tops them all. Her reactions to sounds in the movie seize our attention: the howling dog, the Swiss yodeling, and that damn coin spinning. The action scenes make the movie worth watching: a deadly hike in the woods, the tense German lesson, and the escape from the chocolate factory. The movie implies that the spy game is squalid and too attractive to psychos like Peter Lorre’s character. Carroll’s character changes from the thrill-seeking wanna-be spy to sober woman who wants just a normal life. Worth it.
Not bad, not the best early Hitchcock
TheBandit | SEA-TAC | 11/06/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This Laserlight edition of "Secret Agent" includes a short introduction by Tony Curtis. Many Laserlight classics have an intro like this. Mr. Curtis speaks for about 3 or 4 minutes, a few still photos and publicity shots are shown; its a welcome addition to a budget release. Curtis' intros are sometimes very funny because he delivers his lines so awkwardly.As for the movie itself... For a 1936 suspense thriller, it holds up pretty well. Hitchcock fans won't want to miss it. There is a lot of humor in this film, most of it courtesy of Peter Lorre, who steals the film as the General.This edition of the film runs about 86 minutes. I have seen video guides list the film as having a 93 minute running time. I do not know if this version is incomplete, or if there is in fact a longer version available somewhere. It wouldn't be the first time Laserlight has released a cut version (Hitchcock's "Jamaica Inn" was released with several minutes missing). Maybe a future reviewer can shed some light on this mystery."
Hitch's Mix....Suspense and Humor With Great Style
L. Shirley | fountain valley, ca United States | 12/19/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"From 1936..."The Secret Agent". You'll find Hitch's unique sense of humor well integrated with the suspense and his definitive style, in this terrific film about espionage at the onset of WWI. A reluctant spy is recruited to kill an enemy spy. He is given a false name and a fake wife to keep up appearances. He goes after the target, but does he have the right man? Could there be another who is the real culprit? And what a cast.. John Gielgud stars with Madeline Carroll,Robert Young and Peter Lorre(fabulous as always) as his very strange accomplice.Other notables to look for include Lilli Palmer and Michael Redgrave.
There are several studio editions to chose from. Sometimes the reviews for the different editions are lumped together. I am reviewing the edition put out by Platinum Disc(It has the ASIN B00005A0QH in the product info, or enter in search to find it). The transfer of this 70 year old film by Platinum is decent, but probably not as good as some of the more expensive editions. The picture is nice and clear but there are quite a few scratches.The sound in Dolby Dig is clear and distinguishable. I did find it to be very viewable and perfectly enjoyable.It includes a short trivia quiz of the film, a bio of Sir John Gielgud and a few chapter stops.It comes in a nice jewel case, with an insert that also includes the same extras that are on the disc. It is available from the outside sellers at a reasonable price at this time.
Where's Hitch.....alas, there seems to be no appearance by Sir Alfred here.
I would recommend this edition of "Secret Agent" to Hitch fans who want to build up their collection without spending too much.
Intriguing cast, unexpectedly funny film.
Mary Whipple | New England | 08/09/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Ostensibly a spy thriller set during World War I, this 1936 Hitchcock film is filled with some over-the-top scenes which (unfortunately) may bring smiles rather than chills to the modern audience. Edgar Brodie (John Gielgud), a novelist returning from the war, is declared dead by his own government, given a new identity (Richard Ashenden) and passport, and ultimately sent back to Europe to find an enemy spy. With the charming Madeleine Carroll as his "wife" Elsa, Peter Lorre as a foreign general (with a Latin accent), and Robert Young as Robert Marvin, an American who flirts with Elsa, he arrives in Switzerland to discover his contact, a Swiss organist, dead. As he, Elsa, and the General travel from the mountains to the casino, a chocolate factory, and eventually by train toward Constantinople, looking for the enemy agent, Hitchcock keeps the viewer entertained with snappy scenes and dialogue but little real suspense.
Gielgud is cold and elegant as Brodie/Ashenden but lacks the heart which makes spies intriguing to an audience. Madeleine Carroll is warm and funny, Robert Young is charming (and would have made a great leading man here), and Peter Lorre is hilarious (perhaps unintentionally), stealing scene after scene. Lorre plays his part with a Spanish accent, an earring, curly dark hair, and rolling eyes, and it's hard, if not impossible, to believe that he's an assassin. The outdoor scenes are obviously painted, especially in a mountain climbing scene, and the action is melodramatic. The best and most natural scenes are the scenes in which Young flirts with Carroll, while Gielgud stews or looks confused. These scenes provide contrast with those in which Lorre, in real life a German, looks like a chubby assassin trying to sound "Spanish."
Hitchcock balances his serious scenes with scenes which offer some dark comic relief--Brodie's "wake" contrasting with a scene in which the butler casually carts off his empty casket, Gielgud and Lorre discovering a church organist's body and then having the church bells ring while they are hiding beside them in the bell tower, and Madeleine Carroll visiting politely with the wife of a man being assassinated while the wife's psychic dog howls loudly at the door. In major scenes the major characters wear clothing with sharp black and white contrasts, while lesser characters wear grays, and a constant prop throughout the film is the cigarette--even inside a sauna. Not very suspenseful, the film nevertheless has a surprise ending, and modern viewers will enjoy seeing this cast at work in this early Hitchcock film. Mary Whipple