Cloak and Dagger (1946)

“If anyone’s going to develop the atom bomb, you want it to be us — not the Nazis.”

Synopsis:
An American scientist (Gary Cooper) sent to Europe as a secret agent tries to help a fellow nuclear scientist (Vladimir Sokoloff) escape from a brutal Fascist regime, with the help of a beautiful Italian Resistance fighter (Lilli Palmer).

Genres:

Review:
Peary lists no less than 26 Fritz Lang films in his GFTFF, including (naturally) all of Lang’s best-known works, as well as a handful of his lesser-known titles — such as this one. Cloak and Dagger — based on a non-fiction book about the O.S.S. — remains an undistinguished but competently made war-era spy thriller, featuring a memorable performance by Lilli Palmer as the female lead, and a storyline which, at the very least, keeps one engaged while watching. Cooper acquits himself reasonably well (people have complained that he doesn’t look like a nuclear scientist; what, pray tell, does a “nuclear scientist” look like??), but unfortunately his character’s transformation from bookish lab rat to gallant spy isn’t particularly convincing; however, if you accept this mild implausibility, it’s easy enough to get caught up in his adventures. The best scene, taking place in a hallway, is a wordless one, reminiscent of the infamously dialogue-free “oven murder” scene in Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain (1966); it shows clear evidence of Lang’s directorial vision.

Note: Check out DVD Savant’s article to read more about “one of the most interesting post-production alterations ever done to an American film”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Lilli Palmer as Gina
  • The wordless hallway fight sequence

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.

Links:

One Response to “Cloak and Dagger (1946)”

  1. First viewing. Must-see…even if just for the first half, which is quite strong, before the film is compromised. (Thanks for the link to the DVD Savant article which describes how that was done. Part of the reason I’m recommending the film is because – with such information – film fanatics can learn something about what happens to a film when it is taken from the filmmaker’s control, unwisely. In this particular case, it was quite damaging to the film’s integrity.)

    I wouldn’t call myself a huge Lang fan, though I do like some of his films quite a lot. This one has a particularly good script…or it seems it did have one. Because of where the film ultimately goes, it’s a little difficult to completely assess the film, actually.

    For example, I’m less taken with the love story angle (or, rather, the extent of it – it takes up more time than the story seems to need) but I don’t know how I would feel about it if it were put into a different context as the story reached its intent in its original form. I would be very curious to see what the actual filming script was in the beginning (to see how it was taken beyond being just a spy story).

    For a change in his career, Lang appeared to be working quite fully in a collaborative sense with all of his fellow artists (esp. those behind the scenes), so it was all the more puzzling as the film veered away from where it seemed to be going.

    The work of DP Sol Polito is a particular standout – and Max Steiner provides a rich score (which only seems odd at the end when it turns sort-of ‘Rah-Rah America’, in keeping with how the ending was changed).

    I don’t have a problem with Cooper’s transformation from scientist to spy – it’s not hard to suspend slight disbelief there. I like how engaged he seems in this role. And Palmer is indeed quite good (esp,. early on, when she’s not falling in love).

    This one has the appearance of a missed opportunity, methinks. Or, rather, an ignored or thwarted one.

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