Made by the same British studio that turned out Lady Vanishes, the film also has the same general subject matter, the same screenplay writers, Margaret Lockwood in the femme lead, and even makes similar use of Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne as two tourist Englishmen with a ludicrous interest in cricket.
Much of the film’s merit obviously stems from the compact, propulsive screenplay by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, and the razor-edge direction of Carol Reed. Story by Gordon Wellesley opens in the tense days of August 1939 with a Nazi espionage agent in London recapturing two Czechs who have escaped from a concentration camp, an aged armor-plate inventor and his pretty daughter. A British Secret Service operative follows them to Berlin and, after an exciting sequence of events during which war is declared, escapes with them into Switzerland.
Yarn is not only told without a single letdown, but it actually continues to pile up suspense to a nerve-clutching pitch. The headlong chase and escape at the end is a time-tested melodramatic device superbly handled.
Reed’s direction is worthy of the best thrillers of Edgar Wallace, for whom he was for many years stage manager. Lockwood is an appealing heroine and her performance is direct and persuasive. Rex Harrison is properly suave as the ubiquitous British operative, while Paul Henreid is rightly cold as the treacherous Gestapo agent, Radford and Wayne repeat their goofy Britisher performances of Lady Vanishes and again click. There are countless touches of atmosphere and comedy that add immeasurable flavor and zest to the picture.