Boris Karloff stars in BRITISH INTELLIGENCE, directed by Terry O. Morse for Warner Bros.

British Intelligence (1940, Terry O. Morse)

It should be obvious British Intelligence is based on a play, so much of it takes place in a single house, but director Morse and screenwriter Lee Katz open it up enough it never does. Actually, even though it’s a low budget picture, their expansive approach even obscures the concentration around the one setting.

Intelligence is an early World War II propaganda picture; even though it’s set during World War I, all the ramblings from the Germans or against them are clearly about Hitler. Sometimes Morse can make it work, other times not.

Most of the film is Boris Karloff and Margaret Lindsay conspiring against the English. They’re German spies thrown together and mildly distrustful of each other–whenever Intelligence runs out of scenes, another double agent is revealed to perturb the plot a little.

Karloff is fantastic. Lindsay’s performance, however, is a wee broad. She concentrates on likable instead of believable and has conflicting chemistry with a couple male costars. Sure, Intelligence has to confuse to keep the viewer guessing but it shouldn’t be at the expense of an actor.

Almost no one else in the cast makes an impression. Bruce Lester pops up at the beginning and end to romance Lindsay–Intelligence even starts with him as the protagonist, the shift being a big reason it never feels like a play adaptation–and he’s weak. Holmes Herbert is good though.

Morse and his crew do all right considering they’re cutting in recycled war footage.

Intelligence‘s watchable but disposable.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Terry O. Morse; screenplay by Lee Katz, based on a play by Anthony Paul Kelly; director of photography, Sidney Hickox; edited by Thomas Pratt; music by Heinz Roemheld; produced by Bryan Foy; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Margaret Lindsay (Helene von Lorbeer), Boris Karloff (Valdar), Holmes Herbert (Arthur Bennett), Leonard Mudie (James Yeats), Bruce Lester (Frank Bennett), Lester Matthews (Henry Thompson), Winifred Harris (Mrs. Maude Bennett), Austin Fairman (George Bennett), Louise Brien (Miss Risdon) and Clarence Derwent (The milkman).


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