The Conspirators (1944)

Directed by Jean Negulesco

Plot

During World War II, former schoolteacher turned Dutch resistance fighter Vincent Van Der Lyn (Henreid) causes so much trouble for the Nazis, they place a bounty on his head. As a result, he is ordered to travel to England by way of neutral Lisbon.

On Van Der Lyn’s arrival, Police Captain Pereira (Joseph Calleia) notes that his passport has no exit stamp on it (indicating he sneaked across the border), but reassures the traveler that all that matters is that the Portuguese visa is in order. German agent Otto Lutzke (Kurt Katch) becomes suspicious and starts following the Dutchman.

At a restaurant, Van Der Lyn is pleasantly surprised when a beautiful stranger, Irene Von Mohr (Lamarr), sits down at his table. Irene had passed a card to a man in a nearby alley, only to see him shot in the back. She fled to the restaurant; when the police arrived to question everyone, she sat down to throw off suspicion. She describes herself merely as a frequent gambler at the Casino Estoril. She leaves, supposedly to make a telephone call, but never returns. The Dutchman goes to the casino and finds Irene. As she warns him to stay away from her, they are joined by Hugo Von Mohr (Victor Francen), who is a high ranking German diplomatic official, and Lutzke. The Germans soon identify Van Der Lyn as the saboteur nicknamed the “Flying Dutchman”.

Van Der Lyn meets his contact, Ricardo Quintanilla (Sydney Greenstreet), who introduces him to other members of his resistance group: Pole Jan Bernazsky (Peter Lorre), Norwegian Anton Wynat (an uncredited Gregory Gaye), and Frenchman Paulo Leiris. Quintanilla asks him to brief Jennings (an uncredited Monte Blue), Van Der Lyn’s replacement. In private, Quintanilla warns the newcomer that he suspects one of their group is a traitor.

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The next day, when Irene gets into her automobile, Van Der Lyn invites himself along for the ride. At first annoyed, she gradually warms to him, and they spend the day together. He professes that he is in love with her. She tells him that she married Hugo after he rescued her from Dachau.

When he returns to his hotel room, he finds Jennings slumped over a desk. Jennings is able to give him a message before dying. Acting on a tip, the police arrest him for murder. A distraught Irene tells Captain Pereira that the Dutchman was with her all that day, but declines to testify in court. When she speaks with Van Der Lyn, he accuses her of framing him.

After he escapes, Irene finds him and offers to take him to Quintanilla, revealing that she too is a resistance fighter. His suspicions are allayed after she gives him a gun. When they reach Quintanilla and the others, they charge him with being a turncoat. He manages to convince them otherwise when he gives Quintanilla Jenning’s dying message, which warns that his killers have taken the “eagle”, a rare coin that was to have been used to identify him, and something that Van Der Lyn had not been told. Hugo is then revealed to be part of the underground group.

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Quintanilla decides to set a trap, informing the others that Jennings’ replacement is in the casino hotel, knowing that the Germans will have to eliminate him in order to successfully plant their own agent. Fifteen minutes before they are to meet the new man, Quintanilla reveals his room number, 865, to the others, gathered at a roulette table along with known Nazi agents. Pereira spots Van Der Lyn, but is persuaded to wait for the real murderer to reveal himself. With time running out, Hugo places bets on 8, 6, and 5. Quintanilla and the others escort him away, but he manages to escape. He is killed in a shootout with Van Der Lyn and Pereira. Van Der Lyn finds the eagle on his body.

Van Der Lyn decides to return to Occupied Europe in Jenning’s place. Irene promises to wait for him.

Reception

Bosley Crowther, the critic of The New York Times, called it “a disappointing show. And, indeed, it would be quite as vexing if it came from a less able lot

Trivia

This film has many tangential connections to Casablanca (1942) besides its plot line of anti-Nazi intrigue. It features Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, who all appeared in “Casablanca”. Behind the scenes, the film features music by Max Steiner and cinematography by Arthur Edeson, who both worked on “Casablanca”. Like “Casablanca”, it was produced by Warner Bros. It also features Hedy Lamarr, who was originally considered for the role of “Ilsa”, which was eventually played by Ingrid Bergman. Lamar had also previously appeared in Algiers (1938), which also had a plot line similar to “Casablanca”.

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Tell Quintanilla… They took the Eagle.

6/10
Author: sol1218 from brooklyn NY
29 December 2009
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***SPOILERS*** Somewhat boring and overdone Casablanca-like war drama with the stunningly beautiful, considered to be the most beautiful woman in all the world at the time, Hedy Lamarr as anti-Nazi freedom fighter and former Dachau concentration camp survivor Irene Von Mohr. Don’t let Irene’s last name fool you she’s actually French who’s married to German Diplomat Hugo Von Mohr, Victor Franken, who got her out of Dachau at the risk of his own neck.

Getting involved, almost by accident, with fellow anti-Nazi freedom fighter Vincent Van Der Lyn, Paul Henreid, who’s known in anti-Nazi freedom fighting circles as the a**-kicking “Flying Dutchman” Irene, in at first not knowing who he is, thinks that he’s some kind of Nazi spy working for chief Nazi honcho in natural Lisbon Portugal Dr. Schmitt, Steven Geray. Vincent is on the run from his home in Nazi occupied Holland after almost single-handedly, as we see in the start of the film, wiping out the entire German Army garrison stationed there! Slipping into Portugal Vincent wants to go legit in fighting the Nazis as a member of the free Dutch Air Force instead of being a guerrilla fighter, who’s not protected by the Geneva Convention, by getting to England where the Free Dutch Air Force originates from.

The film “The Conspirator’s” moves at a snails pace with Vincent getting in and out trouble, and jail, until the last ten minutes or so when the action really starts to pick up. It’s then at a swanky Lisbon Casino that it’s revealed who’s the fink, or traitor, who set poor Vincent up in the murder of fellow anti-Nazi freedom fighter Jennings, Monte Blue, that he was arrested and put behind bars for. Even though the identity of the traitor was not that hard to figure out it was about the most exciting scene in the somewhat very uninteresting, with the exception of Miss. Lamarr, film.

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P.S Besides Paul Henreid there’s also Casablanca cast members Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre as anti-Nazi freedom fighters Ricardo Quintanilla and Jan Bernazsky to round out the the films Casablanca-like cast. There’s also Eduardo Ciannelli as Portuguese Army Colonel Almeida who’s out to get Vincent, for violating Portuguese immigration laws, before he slips out of the country on his way to the UK. It was Ciannelli who was to play some 15 years later the lovable Greenwich Village jazz bar and nightclub owner Waldo in the TV series “Johnny Staccato”.

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