Many Spies, Many Twists In This Well-Done, Clever B-Movie
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 11/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"British Intelligence has more betrayals than a faculty tenure meeting, more twists and turns than a lobbyist testifying before Congress. It takes place in London in 1917. World War I seems an endless conflict, with British secrets making their way to the Germans and the British determined to catch the master German spy, Franz Strendler. This is a great example of a solid B movie, carefully crafted, that packs more complex adventure into 61 minutes than you might believe.
Let's see...there's Boris Karloff as Valdar, a French refugee serving as a butler in the household of Arthur Bennett (Holmes Herbert), a British cabinet minister. Or is Valdar really a German spy, Karl Schiller? Wait, is he a British spy after all? There's Margaret Lindsay...is she an English nurse near the front lines or is she a German spy, Helene Von Lorbeer? Or is she a refugee, Frances Hautry? Or perhaps she's one of the best spies the British have. And hidden from them all is the mysterious, ruthless German, Franz Strendler. "He has no soul, no conscience," one character says. "He'd kill you or me...for duty." It all comes together one night when the British cabinet comes to Arthur Bennett's home for a secret meeting. Overhead, German zeppelins begin a bombing attack on a darkened London. With explosives tearing the night apart, Strendler shows his hand with a bomb designed to obliterate the cabinet members. Colonel James Yates (Leonard Mudie), head of British Intelligence, leads a well-planned countermove that reveals who really are the German spies. Strendler almost succeeds...but almost isn't good enough.
British Intelligence was designed to explain the stakes of the new conflict to American audiences and to demonstrate the unshakeable resolve of the British. One Prussian officer wearing a spiked helmet has this to say at the start of the movie: "Victory must be ours! We have but one objective...to win the war even if we have to fight the entire world! No nation, no group of nations can stop our advance...the advance of German culture! We are destined to conquer the world!"
But Colonel Yates of British Intelligence has the last word. "We fight wars," he says, "only because we crave peace so ardently, and we pray that each war will be the last. But always in the strange scheme of things some maniac with a lust for power arises and in one moment destroys the peace and tranquility we've created through the ages. We hate war. We despise it. But when war comes, we must and will fight on and on and on..."
As I say, it's a B movie but well crafted. Boris Karloff does a fine job, whether staring at a person with icy eyes or obsequiously shuffling away with a limp and a bowed head. This Alpha Video DVD looks surprisingly good. The picture is soft but clean, barely faded and easy to look at. There are no extras."
blockhed | UK | 10/01/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The main enjoyment this little film offers can be found in setting it in its 1940 context. Lots of messages went out to the British at this time about Keeping Mum, and Careless Talk Costs Lives. This film is designed for the same purpose, as well as to re-assure the nation that the Intelligence Service was really intelligent. Several points are worth comment. Female spies of the time were intensely beautiful, and spent nearly all of their time shimmering around in white silks and satins. This one is a real peach, and far too delicious to be a baddie. Similarly, Boris Karloff is just not the heroic British type. So this means that the mystery of the double-bluffs is doomed from the start. Never mind, it's quite fun seeing how it pans out. There are a number of interesting touches. Warner Brothers, being great supporters of FDR, make it plain that the Yanks will be Coming, even at this early date; although it took Pearl Harbour to bring about the final decision. There is a quick shot of a Zeppelin bomb being dropped on a shop called Patrick J.Ryan. Strange name. The fact that the cabinet minister's home and office both appear to be totally riddled with German spies does not inspire a lot of confidence. Still, the public knew it was hokum. It is a little disturbing, however, to learn that friendly factories and munitions dumps have to be blown up in order to fool the enemy into thinking the bloodhounds are not on to them."
Teaches About World War 1
Readalots | South Texas, USA | 05/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Karloff's 1940 classic "British Intelligence" is a motion picture rife with World War 1 imagery portrayed by the generation who fought that epic struggle. Although not "sophisticated by today's standards" this flick presents spies as agents and double agents working diligent for king and country (both English and German). The plot, costumes, sets, and acting give this movie a turn of the 20th century feeling.
The best parts of this production are the World War 1 trench battles scenes, various bi-wingers' dogfight, a quick real-life bi-wing plane's crash, the rich man's period Rolls Royce, and dastardly Zeppelins' night bombing of London. Wow! What a different era that was. This movie teaches about the Great War.
The story appears paper-thin (much of its WW 2 period dialogue races to correctly condemn Adolph Hitler without saying his name) until the surprise ending- a mark of all well-done spy shows. Karloff, as usual, is brilliant playing the mysterious leading spy. The black and white photography only helps to add to the flick's atmosphere of espionage and mayhem.
Check this classic out, it runs a little over a hour.
D. S. HARDEN | L.A.,CA USA | 01/11/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I knew that this was a 'B' movie when I purchased it. But with Boris Karloff as the lead character, I knew that this effort wasn't a total loss. I was right! This story had enough in it in the matter of twists and turns to force me to pay attention - the ending was quite surprising (I should tell you - but I won't!!). The price is right! If you want to be entertained, and don't mind 'B' movies, then may I suggest this one?
Four stars for Boris Karloff and British Intelligence!"