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The Spy in Black

Released Aug 12, 1939 1h 22m War List
100% Tomatometer 13 Reviews 71% Audience Score 250+ Ratings A World War I German submarine commander (Conrad Veidt) meets two triple agents (Sebastian Shaw, Valerie Hobson) in the Orkney Islands. Read More Read Less

Critics Reviews

View All (13) Critics Reviews
Variety Staff Variety Veidt has a strong role for which he's admirably suited. Sebastian Shaw is excellent as the English naval officer. Valerie Hobson, as the other spy, is creditable. Mar 26, 2009 Full Review Derek Adams Time Out Darkness, foreboding and regret, rather than any sense of propaganda, dominate this extraordinarily atmospheric World War I spy story made on the eve of World War II Jun 24, 2006 Full Review Frank S. Nugent New York Times U-Boat 29 is the most exciting spy melodrama since the advent of the Second World War. Rated: 4.5/5 Mar 25, 2006 Full Review MFB Critics Monthly Film Bulletin The acting is outstandingly good. Conrad Veidt is brilliant in the lead. Feb 16, 2016 Full Review Peter Freedman Radio Times Strong writing combines with striking cinematography and talented direction to make this a satisfying entertainment. Rated: 3/5 Jan 18, 2013 Full Review TV Guide Veidt is sensational. Rated: 3/4 Jan 18, 2013 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (25) audience reviews
matthew d A dour and drab espionage story in WWI. The Spy in Black (1939) is a spy thriller from director Michael Powell. While the pacing is a bit of a slow burn and it takes about a half an hour to really pick up, this is an interesting little noir. Conrad Veidt's performance is pretty charismatic and likable for playing a German spy in the middle of World War I. His natural expressions and highly expressive face are a delight to watch and believable for his character. He is particularly fascinating to observe as his character finds out the twist and secrets that this film has to offer. He proves he deserves all the praise he has received as an actor. It's too bad this film is not better suited to display his acting prowess. The leading actress is Valerie Hobson, who ranges from stalwart, stern, and sympathetic, to annoying and overacting. It's a bit of a mixed performance from her. The other leading man, played by Sebastian Shaw, is absolutely dull and replaceable. He does little to intrigue and his character is fairly one note. You'd much rather the villainous Veidt to succeed as his character feels more clever and complex. The Spy in Black is just a quick thriller that gets more suspenseful to the end while Veidt must escape from the British Navy. How it all unfolds is far more interesting than the few nice shots from Powell. Powell should have used the shadows more like when Veidt hides in a nook of a hallway in the dark of night or as he escapes into the nighttime outside on the road. If The Spy in Black had more unique sequences like that or more closeups on Veidt's fascinating face, I'd have been more entertained. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member Surprisingly good naval espionage movie set during WWI but made on the verge of WWII. Germans, particularly Veidt's character, come off as very human. Hobson's character is intriguing, particularly her obvious attraction toward's Veidt while married to another man. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/01/23 Full Review Audience Member good plot, but clumsy ending Rated 3 out of 5 stars 01/17/23 Full Review s r Great storytelling for its day and a compelling war film to boot. Then one of the characters went to university of Bristol made it all the better. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member This first collaboration between Powell and Pressburger already contains some of the lyricism that would feature so prominently in their later great films (I Know Where I'm Going!, The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, etc.). Surprisingly, the film follows Conrad Veidt, a German U-Boat commander in WWI, when he is assigned to the small Scottish Orkney Islands as a spy. His mission is to receive secret plans from a British traitor that would allow him to destroy the warships stationed here. His control turns out to be Valerie Hobson, undercover as a schoolteacher in the small village (after the real incoming schoolteacher is disposed of in an unfortunate way). But things are not always how they seem to be! Powell moves smoothly and easily between the wartime U-Boat scenes and the close up personal drama in the village (where Veidt and Hobson may be falling in love!). A memorable portent of things to come and a solid and engaging spy story on its own. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/04/23 Full Review Audience Member Like Conrad Veidt. Enjoyable pace of opening. Supporting cast is good. Theme is right for its time. Seriousness of purpose is fairly shown. Professionalism of German sailors seems free of typical anti-Nazi sentiments. Proper vehicle to explain the Great War at a time when the US was about to enter and at a time when we were still not in WWII. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 02/04/23 Full Review Read all reviews
The Spy in Black

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Cast & Crew

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Movie Info

Synopsis A World War I German submarine commander (Conrad Veidt) meets two triple agents (Sebastian Shaw, Valerie Hobson) in the Orkney Islands.
Michael Powell
Irving Asher
Emeric Pressburger
Production Co
London Film Production
Original Language
Release Date (Theaters)
Aug 12, 1939, Original
Rerelease Date (Theaters)
Oct 7, 1939
1h 22m