A topflight Cold War drama, this film depicts a clever and harrowing cat-and-mouse game between US military people and Russian spies in postwar Berlin. Peck is an intelligence officer who learns that a US Army corpsman has been kidnaped by the communists and taken into the Russian zone.
Worse, the young man's father, a magnate and political power broker, Crawford, arrives from the US and loudly demands that immediate action be taken to get his son released. Peck by then has learned that the Russians are insisting on the return of two elderly Germans--a retired general, Faerber,
and his wife, Esmond, who supports her husband by playing the piano in a seedy nightclub. Peck takes Crawford to the club so Crawford can see for himself the harmless human beings the father insists be traded for his son. That problem is quickly solved when the two attempt to commit suicide. (The
Russians inexplicably want Faerber so he can be turned over to some SS men wanting revenge against the general because of his involvement in the 1944 plot to kill Adolf Hitler!) Peck, with aides Gam and Ebsen at his side, manages to get the couple into a hospital, where their critical condition is
kept secret. Meanwhile, Bjork, an East German woman who has been spying for the US and who is mildly involved with Peck, lobbies for the trade. Peck knows, of course, that the couple will be killed once they are turned over, but they die from their self-inflicted wounds and now he has nothing to
trade for the American soldier. Then, thanks to Ebsen and Gam uncovering Bjork's background, Peck learns that his German lady is really a Russian counterspy. He arranges a trade for the American soldier and has a truck driver deliver the boy, while he gives the Russians a person whom they think is
Faerber's wife. The woman is actually a drugged Bjork.
The Johnson script is taut and the dialog is splendid, as is Johnson's economical direction. Peck does an outstanding job as the problem-plagued intelligence officer who almost loses the deadly game. This was Johnson's first full-authority direction of a film but he was told by Fox chief Zanuck
that Peck's contract permitted him to veto any director. Peck and Johnson had worked on THE GUNFIGHTER together four years earlier and the actor's confidence in Johnson was so high that he did not hesitate to approve of his friend as director. Oscar-nominated for Best Motion Picture Story.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A topflight Cold War drama, this film depicts a clever and harrowing cat-and-mouse game between US military people and Russian spies in postwar Berlin. Peck is an intelligence officer who learns that a US Army corpsman has been kidnaped by the communists a… (more)