Film, Spies, Spy 100 Project

Spy 100, #88: The Iron Curtain

October 23, 2017

At last, I can belatedly backfill an obscure film from the Spy 100 list. The Iron Curtain (1948) tells the story of Igor Gouzenko (Dana Andrews), a cipher clerk assigned to the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, Canada near the dawn of the Cold War. Gouzenko is a tried-and-true communist patriot, dedicated to the cause of Mother Russia…until, that is, the cruelty of his superiors and the kindness of Canadian society slowly, subtly changed his tune. As information about Allied nuclear research starts to cross his desk on its way back to Russia, Gouzenko — inspired in part by his open-hearted wife, Anna (Gene Tierney) — decides to betray his masters to save Canada from the traitors within their midst.

Based on actual events, The Iron Curtain — oddly named, since it takes place entirely in Canada — has the stodgy, portentously narrated feel of 1940s newsreel footage. As a result it’s a bit soulless, with a straight-forward narrative style and a fairly simplistic plot. There are decent moments of suspense, and it does leverage the early stages of worldwide nuclear paranoia to chilling effect. Andrews, Tierney, June Havoc, and others supply the needed dramatic chops, and the noirish look is appealing. It’s hardly the most thrilling spy film I’ve ever seen, but it’s far from the worst, probably more of interest to fans of the actors and the era than general enthusiasts of the genre.

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