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 »h a wife (Madeleine Carroll), Gielgud's character is sent on assignment with a cold-blooded accomplice (Peter Lorre) to assassinate a German agent. En route, the counterfeit couple keeps company with an affable American (Robert Young), who turns out to be more than he seems after the wrong man is murdered by Gielgud and Lorre. Dense with interwoven ideas about false names and real identities, about appearances as lies and the brutality of the hidden, and about the complicity of those who watch the anarchy that others do, Secret Agent declared that Alfred Hitchcock was well along the road to mastery as a filmmaker and, more importantly, knew what it was he wanted to say for the rest of his career. The print of the film used in the DVD release is serviceable and probably comparable to an average 16mm classroom or museum presentation. The DVD also includes a Hitchcock filmography, trivia questions, a director biography, and scene access. --Tom Keogh« less
"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 "
Spies and spies
Kristjan Jonasson | Iceland | 12/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I quite enjoyed this old movie from 1936. It must have been one of the finest movies of the day. But what exactly would Marvin do in Constantinople. I guess we must look that up in Maugham's novel. "
Entertaining WWI Spy Film
Bobby Underwood | Manly NSW, Australia | 11/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
""But your wife, she'll wonder what happened to her poor little General." -- Peter Lorre to John Gielgud
This most enjoyable film made in Britain before Hitchcock came to Hollywood certainly deserves more accolades than it has gotten over the years. It really isn't that far behind 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, and Young and Innocent in either quality or entertainment. Set during the first world war, Somerset Maugham's novel of spies sent to ferret out and eliminate another spy has romance and humor and some real excitement in Hitchcock's hands.
John Gielgud comes home from the war and discovers he's been reported dead. He discovers it was intentional, his cover so he can become Ashenden, and eliminate a very dangerous German spy causing the good guys a lot of trouble. While it's deadly serious business, it gets a bit more pleasant when he discovers in Switzerland that the beautiful and elegant Elsa Carrington (Madeleine Carroll) is to pose as his wife and help him in his mission.
Hitchcock counters the more serious business with a likable Robert Young as Marvin, pursuing romance with Elsa despite her marital status. It is handled with great charm and a sense of fun. Ashenden's other partner is General, played in an over-the-top manner by Peter Lorre. He is more comical than sinister, spending most of his time trying to romance anything in a dress, and quite upset that Ashenden has the fake wife while he has nada.
Elsa falls for her pretend husband, of course, and when the amoral General mistakingly kills the wrong man, a crisis of conscience occurs for both she and Ashenden, who decide to break off this ugly business and go back. But when he and General discover who the real spy is, they must pursue him because Elsa is in danger. The train station scene and everything that follows is classic Hitchcock. While it doesn't have quite the tension of 39 Steps, or the charm of Young and Innocent, it has a blend between the two which is very enjoyable.
Perhaps because it is set during WW I it doesn't connect as much as it should for some viewers. It is quite fabulous in its own way, however, and fans of Hitchcock's early British films will certainly find it appealing. Fans of the lovely Madeleine Carroll will be pleased to discover she is much more in the center of things from the very beginning than in 39 Steps, in which she is also marvelous. The Westlake print is both decent and watchable if unspectacular. A real winner."