I See a Dark Stranger

Director: Frank Launder

U.K.| 1946. Black and white. 98 minutes.

Although made in 1946, I See a Dark Stranger was actually written during the war years. The story was inspired by the fact that, despite the Republic’s neutral stance during the war, numerous stories circulated about Nazi spies using the country as a base. The central character, Bridie Quilty (ironically played by English rose Deborah Kerr), is a passionate Irish nationalist whose hatred of the British is such that, after failing to join the IRA, she willingly agrees to become a spy for the Germans, in the process uncovering information that could wreck the D-Day landings. Bridie’s beliefs are based largely on romantic fantasies about the nationalist struggle. She finally falls for British intelligence officer David Bayne (Trevor Howard) and belatedly realises that the Brits aren’t all bad-or at least not as bad as the Nazis. The excellent team of director Frank Launder and writer Sidney Gilliat treat this potentially inflammatory material at least partly as comedy, with strong echoes of their script for Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. The film remains a fascinating and often startling piece of work that provides further evidence of how fluently Launder and Gilliat could package contemporary social and political comment as mainstream entertainment.

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