Spione (Spies) (The Spy) (1928)

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Movie Info

Spies (Spione) was the first independent production of German "thriller" director Fritz Lang. The years-ahead-of-its-time plotline involves Russian espionage activity in London. The mastermind is Haghi (Rudolph Klein-Rogge), a supposedly respectable carnival sideshow entertainer. Heading the good guys is Agent 326 (Willy Fritsch), with the help of defecting Russian spy Sonya (Gerda Maurus). The film moves swiftly to several potential climaxes, each one more exciting than its predecessor. Haghi's ultimate demise is a superbly staged Pirandellian vignette. Anticipating Citizen Kane by a dozen years, director Lang dispenses with all transitional dissolves and fade-outs, flat-cutting territory from one scene to another. The film was co-scripted by Lang and his then-wife Thea Von Harbou. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast

Gerda Maurus
as Sonya Barranikowa
Craighall Sherry
as Secret Service Chief
Willy Fritsch
as No. 326 (Det. Donald Tremaine English version)
Louis Ralph
as Hans Morriera
Lupu Pick
as Mosimoto (Matsumoto English Version)
Fritz Rasp
as Col. Jellusic (Ivan Stepanov English version)
Hertha von Walther
as Lady Leslane
Paul Hörbiger
as Franz (326's Valet/Chauffeur)
Julius Falkenstein
as Hotel Manager
Georg John
as Train Conductor
Paul Rehkopf
as Strolch
Hans Heinrich von Twardowski
as Chief Jason's Secretary (Spy)
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Critic Reviews for Spione (Spies) (The Spy)

All Critics (16) | Top Critics (3)

Erotic, mysterious, abstract, full of uncanny images and ideas, and rich with multiple identities and intrigue, this is essential viewing for anyone interested in the great director's work.

Oct 15, 2014 | Full Review…

The tone is somewhere between true pulp fiction and pure expressionism, and the result remains wholly thrilling.

Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

Throughout the bewildering mass of scenes in the German production, Spies, there is always something to intrigue the eye despite the fact that it is impossible to make head or tail of the story.

Mar 25, 2006 | Full Review…

Spies is one of Lang's best films. That means one of the best films ever made.

Dec 12, 2017 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Lang's beautiful expressionist touches are on display throughout... but at the same time, [he] attempts a new stark emptiness.

Jan 27, 2015 | Full Review…

Perhaps the most underrated of Fritz Lang's silent spectacles, this tale of master criminality has all the visceral thrill and visual atmospherics of one of Louis Feuillade's Fantomas serials.

Oct 15, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Spione (Spies) (The Spy)

"Spies" is not a visionary masterpiece like Fritz Lang's better known "Metropolis." But like "M," "Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler" and even "Woman in the Moon," it's an impressive genre picture that seems years ahead of its time. The plot is squarely on James Bond turf. There's an archvillain in a wheelchair, sitting behind a desk covered with high-tech switches and lights. There are fingernail-sized cameras, cyanide capsules, opium dens, secret identities, notes written in disappearing ink and rooms with sliding security doors. There's a "MacGuffin" -- a secret Japanese/Europe peace treaty -- that multiple parties are maneuvering to protect or steal. (What would a criminal even gain from having it?) There's a handsome Agent #326 with a rakish, maverick personality (well, at least he until makes the mistake of falling in drippy love, something Bond would never do). And of course, there is plenty of expertly directed action and suspense -- particularly a late sequence involving a sabotaged train. "Spies" also may contain more suicides than any film outside of "Guyana: Cult of the Damned." A perverse quirk. From a dazzling introduction recapping the treaty's violent theft and the resulting chaos, we know we're in the hands of a master filmmaker. Lang's rapid cutting suggests that he could have easily helmed a contemporary blockbuster, and the sets are intriguingly stylized like in so many other German silents. Inventive camera angles are everywhere -- even shots of a boxing ring and people-clogged staircases become something fresh. Where the film shows its age in the love story. The underworld mastermind Haghi (Rudolf Klein-Rogge, who also played Dr. Mabuse) hires a beautiful Russian agent (Gerda Maurus) to extract information out of #326 (Willy Fritsch), but the two quickly swoon for each other in the most hokey, overacted fashion. Whenever the story switches focus to their forbidden romance, the film lags. Another outdated move is casting an European actor to play Dr. Matsumoto, an important Japanese character. But these are small quibbles. This is a 144-minute silent film which never seems overlong (a good trick), and the action builds to a brilliantly absurd ending that Quentin Tarantino couldn't have written any better.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

This is a good spy movie, but I just wish it were shorter. The movie is cool visually, and the actors are good. The story is a lot like other movies I've seen, but it's pretty good anyway. Overall, a good movie from a good director.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

it's spy vs. spy until they fall in love and team up to foil an evil banker's plans for world domination. impossible not to compare it with dr mabuse from 1922; for one thing the same actor plays the villain here. at 2 1/2 hrs, it's not as long but also i fear not quite as much fun. the ending is great tho

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

[font=Century Gothic]In "Spies", a silent epic directed by Fritz Lang, the Secret Service is being embarrassed by an evil organization that is committing acts of terrorism. Agent 326 is summoned to headquarters to fight the good fight but the enemy is onto the good guys and sends the seductive Sonja to seduce 326.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]"Spies" is the definite forerunner of the modern spy flick. It certainly has all the elements - a dashing and handsome hero, an evil mastermind, beautiful women, a secret well-stocked lair and hey, even gadgets.(The agent numbers were used as early as the American Revolution with the Culper Ring.) The unnamed nefarious organization is non-ideological in nature and its ultimate aim is not revealed until late in the picture.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]The movie gets off to a great start and finishes very well but it is simply too long. Overall, "Spies" is a fun film with some great moments.[/font]

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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