Secret Agent is an example of an average Hitchcock film it is exactly what I expected from a majority of this challenge in terms of narrative, themes and style.
Richard Ashenden (John Gielgud) is a Secret Agent, he is sent undercover to Switzerland with two other agents played by Peter Lorre and Madeleine Carroll in an attempt to assassinate a German spy. However the spy is mysterious and evasive and as the story plays out we see each of the three main cast members struggle with the morals of what their jobs.
The story of the film is an interesting one as it is the first film I’ve seen that shows the dark side of being a spy and the pressure that is on them to murder in cold blood. There is also lots of tension which as usual is perfectly crafted for example a scene where Peter Lorre and John Gielgud search for the spy and visit a church, in the church there is an organ playing creepy music the same note constantly echoing. This provides a real sense of danger and you can see the fear in each of the characters and feel that something terrible is about to happen.
The cast and performances from each of them are probably the best in a Hithcock film so far. Peter Lorre is as always brilliant as the semi-crazy ‘General’ and John Gielgud plays the spy with morals exquisitely. The on-screen tension between the two of them as they disagree over what should be done is perfect and gripping.
Amongst all the tension and narrative the film has very few features that are obviously Hitchcockian; the only real example of a typical Hitchcock shot is the point when Ashenden is using a telescope to spy on people. We see through the telescope with Ashenden (thus putting us in his mind), a technique that will obviously become the crux of Rear Window later in Hitchcock’s career.
There is not much wrong with the film and yet I find it hard to class this film as a Hitchcock masterpiece. It is good yes however there is nothing really special about it that will make it stand out.
It is a typical spy film which is kind of disappointing as the script had space for something much more which wasn’t quite grasped. No major flaws it is just simply plain.
There is no cameo in this film.
Secret Agent is an ok film without being anything special. If Hitchcock where an album this film would be a song that is classed as ‘filler’ nothing special but nothing bad either. 3 Hitch’s.