Here it goes: I’m launching the “Spy 100” project! Since the 100th movie on the list isn’t available on DVD or Blu-ray, I have to start with film #99 on the list. (Hopefully I’ll eventually catch up on the missing titles.)
Not entirely unsuccessful, I found All Through the Night (1941) much more interesting as a time capsule than as a true spy film. It stars Humphrey Bogart as a NYC mobster/gambler named Gloves Donahue, a big-shot in his neighborhood who, at the behest of his upset mother, investigates the disappearance of a local baker. When the baker turns up murdered, Gloves’ investigation leads him to a shifty young night club singer named Leda Hamilton (Kaaren Verne), who turns out to be mixed up with a network of Nazi fifth columnists. Can Gloves and his colorful posse of misfit criminals take on a nest of spies and win?
Well, of course they can! All Through the Night, conceived and produced while the U.S. was still neutral during World War II, is a weirdly cheerful treatment of the mounting Nazi menace, a rah-rah pick-me-up that strangely mixes aspects of suspense thriller, noir crime, pro-war propaganda, and madcap spoof. Bogart is as compelling and charismatic as ever, Peter Lorre is in the mix as a gloriously seedy thug, and the film has that breezy, effortless story-telling so common from this era. But the humor is broad and mostly unfunny, the plot isn’t terribly realistic, and there are moments of appallingly casual racism, along with some intrusive politicizing, all of which threw me out of the story occasionally. All these assets and drawbacks combine to paint an interesting picture of the time period, and the story isn’t completely unengaging, but I can see why this one didn’t rank higher than #99. Bogie and Lorre fans might put this on their must-see list, but for everyone else I’d classify it as “take-it-or-leave-it.”