Customer Review

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A now-and-then interesting Fritz Lang film, but not a very successful one, 24 July 2007
This review is from: Cloak & Dagger [DVD] [1946] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
Let's get the bad news out of the way first. And please note that some elements of the plot are discussed. Fritz Lang while in Hollywood made some movies of such variable quality that, for me, it's hard to get a fix on just how good he was, particularly considering the quality and originality of his German films. Cloak and Dagger is not exactly a failure, but it sets up such an unrealistic premise that the movie itself seems not much more than a left-handed exercise by a right-handed man. For instance, Gary Cooper's character, Professor Alvah Jesper, a physicist at Midwestern University, is recruited by the Office of Strategic Services to go to Switzerland. We meet Jesper in his lab working on an experiment...in a well-cut suit, the coat buttoned and wearing a perfectly knotted tie. With apparently no time for training, we meet him again two days later in Switzerland up to his neck in German spies. Substantial stretches of the movie, particularly in the middle, just seem to dawdle along. While the film features an A list star with Cooper, some of the secondary players don't add much interest. And Cooper, 45 when he made the movie, already had that haggard look around his eyes. He could easily have been 55. It doesn't help that the film's female lead, Lilli Palmer, who was 32, could easily pass for 22.

Still, the movie has some high points. The espionage maneuvering in Switzerland played out in an elegant hotel and a mountain lodge is clever and, in the lodge, violent. Jesper's insertion into Italy from a submarine at night and in wet weather builds tension, as does his meeting with Italian partisans and their trip to Rome, hidden in a truck, through checkpoints. The violent confrontation at a country farmhouse between an aging Italian physicist and his daughter is unexpected. And one hands-on fight to the death between Jesper and a tough Italian undercover cop played by Marc Lawrence in a building entrance next to a restaurant, with street musicians playing and singing, is silent and brutal.

The basic story line goes like this. The OSS knows the Germans are working to build an atom bomb but they don't know how far along the project is. A Hungarian scientist, a brilliant mathematician, has escaped from Germany over the Alps to Switzerland. Jesper, a physicist working on the American bomb, is recruited to go to Switzerland and interview the woman. He speaks German and the two know each other. As things would have it, Jesper determines he must go on to Italy to try to talk an Italian scientist into escaping to America. He meets with a number of Italian partisans who help him, including Gina (Lilli Palmer in her first Hollywood movie), and the partisans' leader, Pinkie (Robert Alda). Tentatively, while Jesper and Gina are hiding out together in Rome, a relationship develops. The end of the movie, after partisans hold off the Germans to allow Jesper and the scientist to escape, sees Jesper pledging to return for Gina after the war, and Gina, eyes misting, watches his plane fly off.

If you're a Lang completist or just enjoy WWII espionage movies, this might be something to add to your collection. The DVD picture is just fine. There are no extras.
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C. O. DeRiemer
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Location: San Antonio, Texas, USA

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