Fritz Lang (director)
106 min (length)
27 January 2020 (released)
26 January 2020
A rarity as far as director Fritz Lang’s film noirs go, CLOAK AND DAGGER is both an espionage thriller as much as it is a romance (well, of sorts) though ultimately it’s neither here nor there.
Gary Cooper slips into the somehow unlikely role of both mild-mannered nuclear physicist Professor Alvah Jesper who ends up becoming a reluctant undercover agent on a mission to find out about Germany’s plans to construct an atomic bomb – a trifle fantastic seeing how back in his native USA, Jesper is working on the so-called ‘Manhattan Project’ – assisting to develop the American A-bomb. As he puts it: “We are able to develop weapons of mass destruction but fail to develop a chemical formula to create juicy apples” while heartily biting into one. Of course, Jesper would rather see the A-bomb developed by the Yanks than by the Axis powers!
The movie opens with plenty of action during which Allied agents are shot down in occupied Europe, just as they are hidden away in a room trying to dispatch an important radio message. Although the whole message is not delivered it’s enough proof to show the Nazis are at an advanced stage regarding the development of nuclear weapons. Cue for the OSS (the American spy service) to dispatch aforementioned Professor Jesper to Europe, to be precise to Switzerland where leading German physicist Katerin Lodor (Helen Thimig) has defected. Jesper’s mission is to make contact with her to find out just how close the Nazis are from succeeding with their weapon. Of course, Lodor is also a fellow scientist that Jesper has always admired! Better still, Jesper should find a way to get Lodor out of Switzerland.
Unfortunately Jesper is nowhere near as skilled as an undercover agent as he is in his capacity of nuclear physicist and it’s not before long when a dishy American expatriate called Ann (Marjorie Hoshelle) wraps him around her finger… too bad she turns out to be in the employ of the Gestapo! A terrible mistake culminating in the unfortunate death of Lodor! On then to Plan B and it’s off to Italy where Jesper tries to contact acclaimed physicist Professor Polda (Vladimir Sokoloff) who is forced to lend his services to the Germans if he ever wants to see his daughter again… alive that is! Jesper’s plan is to smuggle Polda and his daughter to safety and to England and a group of Italian partisan fighters are supposed to help him. Among the partisans is Gina (Lilli Palmer) whose dangerous work has left her emotionally scarred and embittered, nonetheless Jesper senses that underneath the cynical façade hides a damaged soul and he’s only too happy to prove to her that true love can exist. Unfortunately this is the point where the movie begins to slack and deviate from the original action as too much time and focus is spent on the blossoming romance between Jesper and Gina.
When the film finally finds it way back to the action and espionage, more disappointments and nasty surprises are in store for Jesper. However, he manages to get Gina out of the danger zone. The ending is deliberately left open as far as their romance is concerned but the more poignant message here lies in highlighting the dangers that weapons of mass destruction pose not just on individuals but everyone.
Although Cooper plays his part in an amiable manner (as required per script) it’s hard to see him as a convincing undercover agent. Of course, four years later he was considerably more convincing as the stoic Marshal Will Kane in the classic western HIGH NOON, a role which gained him both an ‘Academy Award’ and a ‘Golden Globe Award’. Lilli Palmer strikes the right note as the emotionally tormented Gina and the same can be said for Max Steiner’s score.
This Dual Format Edition offers a plethora of Bonus Material including the 1946 Lux Radio Theater adaptation also starring Lilli Palmer and Ronald Reagan (yes, the Ronald Reagan!) plus a staggering 660 mins of CLOAK AND DAGGER: THE RADIO SERIES!