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Secret Agent

UK 1936
produced by
Michael Balcon, Ivor Montagu for Gaumont British
directed by Alfred Hitchcock
starring John Gielgud, Peter Lorre, Madeleine Carroll, Robert Young, Percy Marmont, Florence Kahn, Charles Carson, Lilli Palmer, Howard Marion-Crawford, Tom Helmore, Andreas Malandrinos, Michael Redgrave, Michel Saint-Denis
screenplay by Charles Bennett, based on the play by Campbell Dixon, and the novel Ashenden by W. Somerset Maugham, dialogue by Ian Hay, Jesse Lasky jr, music by Hubert Bath

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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World War I: Richard Ashenden (John Gielgud) is sent to the Switzerland as a secret agent with his fake wife Elsa (Madeleine Caroll) and the borderline psychotic General (Peter Lorre) to track down and kill a German spy, though nobody even knows that man's identity. Soon, Ashenden and the General pay a visit to a church organ player who is supposed to give them some clues - only to find that man murdered. But still, a button the dead man holds in his hand provides a clue to a man, Caypor (Percy Marmont), residing in the hotel they are staying, so Ashenden and the General take him to a friendly trip through the mountains, where the General kills him with so much joy it almost freaks Ashenden out.

Back at the hotel, Ashenden, Elsa and the General learn that Caypor was not the man they were looking for, and while Ashenden and Elsa are shocked and immediately want to resign, the General is greatly amused.

Then though, Ashenden and the General receive another clue, and Elsa is so disappointed about Ashenden - whom she has fallen in love with - going spy-hunting that she leaves with one Robert Marvin (Robert Young), who has tried to sweettalk her ever since she has arrived, and who now claims he is heading for Greece.

Meanwhile, Ashenden and the General learn that Marvin is exactly the man they are looking for, and they try to catch up with him before he reaches Turkey, his actual destination, but they only manage to do so on a train near the Turkish border - where Elsa, who has only just found out who Marvin is, gets second thoughts about their whole mission and actually tries to save Marvin's life ... when the train is bombed by British planes, wrecked, and both the General and Marvin die in the wreck while Ashenden and Elsa make it back to Great Britain as a happy couple.


Light-footed, well-played and elegantly directed, Secret Agent has all the trademarks of Alfred Hitchcock's Biritsh era - yet it is not one of his best films, and besides the convoluted script and the tagged on happy ending, the film's main problem is the character of Elsa, who just fails to remain believable, whose changes of heart come way too suddenly, unexpectedly and without motivation, and who actually acts against any reason in the finale. Still, despite this character (not actress Madeleine Carroll, who is actually fine in the role) the film is totally watchable, just don't expect a flawless classic.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD