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Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin (17/Jun/1936) - Secret Agent





SPY MELODRAMA ... Jerky, badly composed efforts at experimentation with tricky film technique ... Parts will leave average spectator befuddled ... Lorre's adroit performance helps ... Rates ** generally; perhaps slightly better for action houses.

83 Minutes

Madeleine Carroll ... Peter Lorre ... John Gielgud ... Robert Young ... Percy Marmont

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock, "England's greatest director," hasn't done quite so well by this spy story. In an effort to individualize the film he employed some dubious technical tricks to gain effect and turned out a jerky, halting job that will annoy many spectators, because it will befuddle them. Furthermore, it has particularly poor recording. Had the directorial and editing work been smoother, "Secret Agent" would have been a much more satisfactory film. As is, it has Peter Lorre in another of his phlegmatic killer roles. He can commit murder more nonchalantly than any other actor on the screen. Madeleine Carroll and a newcomer to these shores, John Gielgud, provide the romantic interest, which suffers from the same indecisive treatment as most of the other portions of the story. Purportedly adapted from spy stories by W. Somerset Maugham, "Agent" is a bit outdated and suffers from Mr. Hitchcock's unsuccessful experiments. It should get fair grosses in action houses and can do better with strong exploitation.


Gielgud and Madeleine Carroll, British secret service agents, are assigned to the job of locating Robert Young, a dangerous German spy. They are supplied with the assistance of Lorre, known as "The General," who kills those marked by the agents. Young, posing as an American, renews an old romance with Madeleine. He is taking her away with him, when Lorre finds out who he is. With Gielgud, they pursue and catch Young and are about to finish him off when the train is wrecked. Both Lorre and Young are pinned beneath the wreckage and the "General" kills the German while he is drinking from the flask Lorre handed him. We understand that Gielgud and Carroll are married after the war.


Action houses should sell Lorre strongly and recall his roles in "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "Mad Love" and "Crime and Punishment." Better class spots will get best results by plugging Carroll and Hitchcock, latter as director of "39 Steps."