Sunday, June 07, 2015

Tonight's Movie: David Harding, Counterspy (1950)

DAVID HARDING, COUNTERSPY (1950) is hokey fun for viewers who enjoy this type of "B" film. I had a good time watching it.

Like MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY (1947), which was reviewed last week, DAVID HARDING, COUNTERSPY is a Columbia film which was inspired by a radio show created by Phillips Lord.

Also like MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY, DAVID HARDING, COUNTERSPY only rated 1-1/2 stars in Maltin's Classic Film Guide, which pronounced it "incredibly dull." I beg to differ!

I watched most of this movie with a smile on my face. Art, it's not, but it's quite entertaining, giving viewers a double dip of Cold War and WWII espionage. How could I not have fun watching a movie with John Dehner as an FBI agent who specializes in mimicking accents? Or Audrey Long as a sweet-faced heroine who might not be all that she seems? Spy gadgets, a mysterious mansion in Washington, and a bunch of sandwich-loving agents working for Uncle Sam. What's not to enjoy?

David Harding (Howard St. John) is a bigshot at an FBI-type organization based in Washington. (The agency is never referred to by name.) As the movie begins, Harding is explaining to an irate news broadcaster why he fed him bad intel as part of a Cold War intelligence operation. Harding illustrates how the FBI deals with threats to our nation by telling the man the story of the time he cracked the case of a ring of torpedo factory saboteurs during WWII. Cue flashbacks!

Lt. Commander Jerry Baldwin (Willard Parker) is recalled from Pearl Harbor to work at the torpedo factory and help Harding's team solve the case. Baldwin's close friend had previously held the same position at the factory and was believed to have suffered an accidental death, but Harding believes it was murder.

Baldwin is assigned to work with the man's widow, Betty (Long), who, as it happens -- of course! -- he's loved for years. A fun thriller ensues, involving a hearing aid camera, a fancy telescopic lens...and keep your eye on that popcorn box!

The supporting cast includes Raymond Greenleaf, Harlan Warde, Alex Gerry, and Fred F. Sears. Watch for Jock Mahoney and Jean Willes.

This brisk 71-minute movie was directed by Ray Nazarro, who could usually be found behind the camera shooting "B" Westerns. The movie was filmed by George E. Diskant, who shot some great film noir titles of the era, perhaps most notably ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1951).

DAVID HARDING, COUNTERSPY is available on DVD in a very nice print as part of the Forgotten Noir Vol. 3 set from VCI.

The movie's lone sequel, also starring Howard St. John, is COUNTERSPY MEETS SCOTLAND YARD (1950). John Dehner returns as Agent Reynolds, although his first name is different! Ron Randell and Amanda Blake costar in that title. COUNTERSPY MEETS SCOTLAND YARD (1950) is available on DVD in the Forgotten Noir and Crime Vol. 4 set. I hope to review it here in the fairly near future.

2019 Update: Here's a review of COUNTERSPY MEETS SCOTLAND YARD (1950).


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