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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I SEE A DARK STRANGER (1946)

After THE LADY VANISHES/’38 for Alfred Hitchcock and the Hitchcockian NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH/’40 for Carol Reed, writing partners Frank Launder & Sidney Gilliat hyphenated up, adding directing & producing planks as a sort of B-Team Powell/Pressburger. This sharp WWII espionage adventure, out just after the war with an unlikely comic slant, shows them at their best. Their directing chops were always limited, but if action is awkwardly staged, the suspense stuff comes across nicely, and the film is just too bouncy & clever for serious niggling. Deborah Kerr, in a career-making perf, is the stubborn Irish lass who thinks she’s joining the I.R.A., unaware she’s in cahoots with a gang of veddy British Nazi spies. Trevor Howard’s a British Officer on leave, instantly smitten by her looks and blunt rudeness. She’s a puzzle . . . and a challenge! He trails her on a hunt for a little Black Book hidden on the Isle of Man, trying to deduce what she’s up to and that she stays out of harms way. Good thing too, since both the Nazi gang and Army & Police units are in hot pursuit. The pace is furious; the plotting not always clear (a jump to England confuses); the characters vividly drawn. With Raymond Huntley, a standout as one of the German agents, and a gaggle of hilariously thick Brits everywhere you turn. It’s wicked clever and deeply satisfying fun.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Note our poster from the Stateside release. Re-titled THE ADVENTURESS, it lost about a reel’s worth of footage. An HVe edition has the complete 112" print, officially sourced from the Janus collection in reasonably good shape.

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