Today, we’re here to look at a 1941 spy thriller called International Lady starring George Brent, Ilona Massey and Basil Rathbone!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Beginner’s Luck (1935)
(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)
(Length: 18 minutes, 38 seconds)
After having Spanky (George McFarland) recite for some of her lady friends, Spanky’s mother decides to enter him in an amateur talent contest. However, Spanky has no desire to win, and enlists the Gang’s help to sabotage his performance. It’s yet another short focused on Spanky, and the results are once again hilarious! Spanky brings the fun, whether dealing with a meddlesome parrot or doing his recitations (especially when he defends himself against everything the Gang was throwing at him). Of note with this short is the debut of future Our Gang star Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (although not as the character he would become known for). I laughed from start to finish on this one, which in my book makes it worth recommending (and I’ll certainly be coming back to it whenever I can)!
And Now For The Main Feature…
During the London bombing by the Nazis, Tim Hanley (George Brent) runs into concert singer Carla Nillson (Ilona Massey), and invites her to a bomb shelter/nightclub. There, they run into music critic Reggie Oliver (Basil Rathbone), who joins them. However, Tim and Carla had been followed there by somebody, and Tim decides to go down to the police station with the man to do something about it. There, he is joined by Reggie, and it is revealed that neither Tim nor Reggie are who they claimed to be. Tim (who had claimed to be a lawyer working with the U.S consulate) was actually an FBI agent while Reggie was from Scotland Yard, and they were both with Carla because she was suspected of being part of a ring of saboteurs trying to stop American planes from being shipped to England. However, the two men can’t quite agree on how to handle the case, resulting in Tim trying to sneak Carla off to Lisbon (without Reggie), where he helps her get a visa to America. While in Lisbon, Carla sneaks away to meet with members of the sabotage ring to get her new “music” (which is the code for the organization). Tim had seen her sneak away and tried to follow, but the cab he tried to take quickly lost sight of her. Reggie joined them after they got back together, and the three finished out the trip to the U.S. together. Once in the country, Carla went her way to the home of chocolate magnate Sidney Grenner (Gene Lockhart) (who was also the head of the ring of saboteurs) to prepare for his radio program (where they would use the music to communicate with the other members). At the party being held for Carla’s “concert,” Reggie goes undercover as a waiter, and snoops around while everybody is listening to Carla sing. He overhears a telephone conversation between Grenner’s “butler” Webster (George Zucco) (who is an expert marksman) and another member of the ring. After the concert, Tim finds Carla’s sheet music, and, discerning the existence of a code on there, he writes it down to pass off to another agent. When Webster sees Tim alone in the garden, he is suspicious and takes a shot at Tim (but doesn’t kill him on purpose). Carla discovers that Tim is an FBI agent, but she doesn’t reveal it to anybody else until after Tim has left the premises. With time running out as the saboteurs follow through with their plans to destroy all the planes being sent to England, Reggie works hard to crack their code. But will he succeed in time? And will Carla’s feelings for Tim stop her from continuing to take part in the sabotage (or will she let Tim get killed)?
Honestly, I hadn’t heard of this film at all until it was announced for a Blu-ray and DVD release from ClassicFlix (but more on that in a moment). I’ve come to enjoy trying out the different films that ClassicFlix has been putting out, so I was willing to give it a try (and the presence of Basil Rathbone in the movie certainly didn’t hurt its appeal). In general, the film turned out to be better than I had anticipated. I found the film’s way of showing the saboteur’s code being sent while Ilona’s Carla was singing to be an interesting way of portraying it. I have mixed feelings about George Brent’s performance, as I don’t think he fully works as the leading man in this film, yet I like his relationship with Basil Rathbone’s Reggie, as the two almost work well as a comedy team (with their main comedy bit being the language difference between British and American slang). Even apart from his dealing with George Brent’s Tim, Basil Rathbone really carries the film, especially when he is in disguise at the party (which is almost hard to notice at first unless you are really looking for it, which is saying something). You won’t really find a lot of tension here (especially since this is considered a spy thriller), and you won’t find much in the way of shootouts. Still, I found it to be a very entertaining film (and one I’m glad to have seen), and I think it’s worth giving a chance!
What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… International Lady (1941)
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from ClassicFlix as part of their Silver Series line of releases. According to a post by the founder of ClassicFlix on one of the forums I frequent, their original plan was to release the film on DVD only, but they were given an HD master by the owner that was good (but not quite good enough for their main line of releases, and would be too expensive of a proposition for them to do a new and better master). Having seen it now myself, I’m still very impressed with a picture that looks quite good, with very little damage evident, and a fairly sharp picture throughout. Overall, it’s a very good transfer given a pretty good release on disk. Given that it’s part of their “no frills” Silver Series, there are no extras beyond a few trailers for some of ClassicFlix’s other releases, and there are no subtitles for those who need them (but dialogue is still relatively easy to understand the majority of the time).
Film Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes
My Rating: 8/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Jezebel (1938) – George Brent – Tomorrow Is Forever (1946)
Balalaika (1939) – Ilona Massey
The Mark Of Zorro (1940) – Basil Rathbone – The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad (1949)
The Sea Wolf (1941) – Gene Lockhart – Going My Way 1944)
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