Film, Spies

Film: Dark Journey

November 12, 2017

An unconvincing romance mars the overall effect of Dark Journey (1937), an otherwise engaging World War I espionage tale. It’s still worth watching as a vehicle for the luminous Vivien Leigh, who stars as Madeleine Goddard, a Stockholm dress shop owner who uses a mask of neutrality as cover to spy for the Germans during the Great War — or wait, is she in fact spying for the British and French? Madeleine deftly works the gray zones between the two sides, a position challenged by the arrival of Baron Karl Von Marwitz (Conrad Veidt), a dashing older gentleman who deserted from the German army and sought sanctuary in Sweden. Madeleine is resistant to, but ultimately won over by, his peculiar charms — but their relationship may threaten her cover, and lead to unwelcome revelations.

Dark Journey is modestly successful as a rare look at espionage during the First World War, an interesting glimpse at the politics and tradecraft of the era. Alas, while the plot’s murky ambiguity serves the story well, it banks too much on a chemistry between Leigh and Veidt that doesn’t exactly exist. Individually, they are absolutely worth watching: Leigh for her effortless poise and charisma, Veidt for his quirky, unusual leading-man credentials. But they make no sparks together, which makes the finale — set against a curiously relaxed naval battle — something of an ineffective anticlimax.

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