Dark Journey

“So our pretty little dressmaker is a spy! What will people say, an officer of the Kaiser like me and a woman like you, Madeline?”–Baron Karl Von Marwitz

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When I watched The Spy in Black a while back, I had no idea it was a remake.  Or at least it might as well have been anyway.  Made in 1939, it turns out to have been preceded by Dark Journey, made two years earlier.  In both, Conrad Veidt plays a surprisingly sympathetically portrayed WWI German U-boat captain turned spy only to be undone by a beautiful female double agent with whom he becomes romantically involvedIn Dark Journey, the double agent is played by Vivien Leigh; whereas, in The Spy in Black the role falls to Valerie Hobson.  “Falls” is the operative word here, for The Spy in Black is a superior film in every respect save that of its leading lady.  It’s not the Valerie Hobson is bad in it; she’s not, but Vivian Leigh is simply radiant.  Then again that may not have been for the better.  Veidt and Leigh’s relationship just isn’t convincing.  Enough time isn’t spent developing it for one thing, but one gets the feeling it would have been a losing cause even if they had.  Veidt is debonair enough, but an irresistible ladies man he’s not, and the Archers were right to depict him in their film as more emotionally vulnerable.  Also not convincing is the plot.  Critic Dennis Schwartz called the film “muddled,” and that about sums it up.  Toward the end, critical plot points unravel, but the audience gets no glimpse into that unraveling, making it seem like a key scene or two must have been left on the cutting room floor.  BL: Recommended only for Vivian Leigh fans interested in seeing her pre-Scarlett.  Others would be better served watching the remake The Spy in Black                                                                                                                                                               


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