Friday, June 22, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Secret Enemies (1942)

SECRET ENEMIES (1942) is a nice example of the type of "B" movie at which Warner Bros. excelled in the late '30s and early '40s.

Clocking in at just 57 minutes, it's a zippy spy thriller with a fast-paced story and plenty of familiar faces.

SECRET ENEMIES, which was released nine months after Pearl Harbor, begins on December 8, 1941. Attorney Carl Becker (Craig Stevens) heads for the German embassy in Washington to try to obtain help getting the sick wife of a close friend (Frank Reicher) out of Germany.

Becker has no luck, and the friend is pressured by a German spy (Robert Warwick) to spy for the Nazis in order to save his wife's life.

Becker, meanwhile, joins the FBI when an agent friend (Charles Lang) is gassed to death in the hotel where they were both staying.

Becker's training supervisor, John Trent (John Ridgely), is initially somewhat suspicious of Carl and whether he could have played a role in the agent's death, but eventually the two men work together closely to break up the German spy ring. Little does Carl know that not one but two important people in his life are part of the ring.

Faye Emerson costars as Carl's girlfriend Paula, a nightclub singer; she never sings and the role is underdeveloped -- I mean, it's a 57-minute movie! -- but she ends up having a key part in the story as the finale unfolds.

There's a particularly good scene where Stevens and Ridgely arrive to stay at the hotel well-prepared to prevent their own deaths by gas and catch some bad guys, and on the whole the movie hurtles along quickly with spies and gun battles galore. It's a fun watch which is particularly interesting as an example of of the kind of films Hollywood studios were turning out in the earliest days after our entry into WWII.

Stevens is an acceptable leading man although I find him just a bit bland; I honestly feel that longtime supporting actor fave Ridgely is more charismatic and fun to watch. Fortunately they have numerous scenes together!

SECRET ENEMIES was directed by Benjamin Stoloff and filmed in black and white by James Van Trees. The supporting cast includes George Meeker, Monte Blue, Addison Richards, Cliff Clark, and Ray Teal.

I saw this film thanks to recording a past showing on Turner Classic Movies. Perhaps one day it will turn up on DVD via the Warner Archive. I'd love to see the Archive release sets of hour-long WB "B" films such as this one!


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