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Contraband [VHS]


Contraband [VHS]



Michael Powell uses the inky darkness of the London blackout as the memorable setting for this romantic wartime espionage thriller. Conrad Veidt, the severe hawk-faced German actor best known for playing villains (including the evil vizier in the Powell-directed portions of The Thief of Bagdad), enjoys a rare heroic turn as the no-nonsense captain of a neutral Danish freighter pulled into a British port. When two of his passengers sneak off one night, he follows the headstrong Mrs. Sorensen (Valerie Hobson) in hopes of meeting up with her fellow truant. Instead he runs into a nest of Nazis: his delinquent passengers are in reality British spies, and he's caught in the web of intrigue. Clearly a wartime propaganda piece, this witty, fast-paced thriller concocted by Powell and screenwriter Emeric Pressburger makes the most of its nocturnal setting. The charming nightclub hopping turns into a kidnapping and a daring escape (the resourceful captain navigates his way through London by the stars), and concludes with a brawl that joins the Danes with a group of plucky Brits--Allies in action! Spiced with genial humor (provided by Claude Rains look-alike Hay Petrie, who plays the dual roles of the first mate, Skold, and his two-fisted restaurateur cousin) and a refreshingly mature angle on romantic sparring, this joins The Lady Vanishes"span" as one of the best and most elegant of the British wartime thrillers. --Sean Axmaker

Contraband [VHS]