After last week’s disappointment watching Citizen Kane I was delighted to discover a real gem this week. Don’t be put off by the grim movie poster (right), this isn’t a harrowing war movie it’s a delightful James-Bond-style wartime spy thriller with the delectable Christopher Plummer as debonair British double agent Eddie Chapman.
I knew nothing about this movie when I started watching it, except that it was a WW2 movie, so I naturally expected Plummer to be a German (after all he was so convincing as Captain von Trapp). He is, however, a very charming British crook. I get the feeling that the real-life Chapman may not have been quite as dashing in reality but it certainly makes for a great movie.
Chapman starts out as an outrageously daring member of the Gelignite Gang, who blow safes in a charming and rather attractive way (rather like David Niven in The Pink Panther) all over pre-war England.
To escape the heat he travels to the Channel Islands, and since he has rather an eye for the ladies ends up being caught (literally with his pants down) in the bedroom of a young lady and sent to prison. He’s still in prison 9 months later when Jersey is overrun by the occupying German forces. Using a mixture of charm and annoying persistence he manages to strike a deal with the German Kommandant by offering to spy for the Germans. I have no idea whether his plan was always to turn double agent, I think he was pretty amoral and self-serving but he’s so charming you give him the benefit of the doubt!
He meets the mistrusting ex-policeman Colonel Steinhager played by Gert Fröbe (who of course was Goldfinger in the Bond Movie of the same name), and the totally loveable Colonel Baron von Grunen played by Yul Brynner. There are some token bad-guys in this movie who are truly dislikeable, but the characters played by Fröbe and Brynner also serve to remind you that people were caught up and forced into service on both sides of the war and not all Nazis were necessarily like the concentration camp guards of last week.
To cut a long story short, there’s lots of seduction by Chapman who charms ladies regardless of their nationality and political persuasion – not exactly for King and country as James Bond would claim, but rather because he enjoys ‘looking at beautiful things’ and out of a sense of self preservation. Romy Schneider, playing a Swedish Nazi and Claudine Auger* from the French resistance both fall for his charms along with numerous other girls.
* she was the Bond girl from Thunderball.
Champan gets accepted into the German secret service and sent to England where he goes straight to MI5 and becomes a double agent, then goes back to Germany (and gets awarded the Triple Cross) and manages to end his war back in England as a war hero with a clean police record.
Fabulous, I loved every exciting sexy second!
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