Director: FRITZ LANG

145 minutes| Germany| 1928| Restored version with a new score by Donald Sosin| German intertitles; English subtitles| Black and White| DVD

One of Lang’s most enjoyable extravaganzas, Spione is a spy melodrama that anticipates early Hitchcock and the entertainments of Graham Greene and Ian Fleming. Here the criminal mastermind is a banker who also masquerades as a clown and who is motivated not by money but by pure malice. His espionage enterprise is opposed by a hero so bland that he is only given a number rather than a name. Incident takes precedence over character, and the film is consistently imaginative in its visual detail (e.g. a nicely cynical moment when a capitalist is spared a bullet’s impact by a wad of bank notes in his wallet) and its set-pieces, such as a moving suicide scene involving a disgraced Japanese diplomat and a spectacularly staged train crash. Rudolf Klein-Rogge’s charismatic rogue could almost be a surrogate of Lang himself, a supreme manipulator pulling all the strings, and lowering the curtain on an impudent, exhilarating film.

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