The Spy in Black (1939) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Spy in Black (1939)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

The Spy In Black is the story of a German World War I submarine captain (Conrad Veidt) who is given a mission to discover British intelligence secrets. Once he arrives in the Orkney Islands, he meets up with a female schoolteacher (Valerie Hobson), who happens to be a German agent. Veidt falls in love with Hobson before discovering she's actually a double agent for the British. In America, Spy in Black was originally released under the title U-Boat 29.
Action & Adventure , Classics , Drama , Mystery & Suspense , Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Criterion Collection


Valerie Hobson
as Frau Tiel / Jill Blacklock
Sebastian Shaw
as Lt. Ashington / Cmdr. David Blacklock
Conrad Veidt
as Captain Hardt
June Duprez
as Anne Burnett
Marius Goring
as Lt. Schuster
Athole Stewart
as Rev. Hector Matthews
Agnes Laughlan
as Mrs. Matthews
Helen Haye
as Mrs. Sedley
Cyril Raymond
as Rev. John Harris
Hay Petrie
as Chief Engineer
Grant Sutherland
as Bob Bratt
Robert Rendel
as Admiral
Mary Morris
as Chauffeuse
George Summers
as Capt. Ratter
Kenneth Warrington
as Cmdr. Dennis
Torin Thatcher
as Submarine officer
Esma Cannon
as Maggie (uncredited)
Skelton Knaggs
as German Sailor looking for Capt. Hardt (uncredited)
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News & Interviews for The Spy in Black

Critic Reviews for The Spy in Black

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (4)

Veidt has a strong role for which he's admirably suited. Sebastian Shaw is excellent as the English naval officer. Valerie Hobson, as the other spy, is creditable.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Darkness, foreboding and regret, rather than any sense of propaganda, dominate this extraordinarily atmospheric World War I spy story made on the eve of World War II

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

U-Boat 29 is the most exciting spy melodrama since the advent of the Second World War.

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

The film is dark and beautifully textured, though not as visually rich as the later, higher-budgeted Powell pictures.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The acting is outstandingly good. Conrad Veidt is brilliant in the lead.

Full Review… | February 16, 2016
Monthly Film Bulletin

Strong writing combines with striking cinematography and talented direction to make this a satisfying entertainment.

Full Review… | January 18, 2013
Radio Times

Audience Reviews for The Spy in Black

Veidt has a strong role for which he's admirably suited. Sebastian Shaw is excellent as the English naval officer. Valerie Hobson, as the other spy, is creditable.

Greg Wood
Greg Wood

A solid and fun early British film from Michael Powell, "The Spy in Black" shows his early prowess with the camera. Even though It's considered a B film, the interior and exterior shots are captured surprisingly well and the use of angles adds to the intrigue and secrecy in the film. The movie is about a German submarine captain named Conrad Veidt who receives orders to infiltrate and gather intelligence to destroy a British Fleet. The other spies and people involved in the mission may not be who they seem. The only drawbacks, from an otherwise enjoyable film, was the held back movements and actions of both the Germans and English during crucial scenes. For examples of this look at the woman spy who is alone with the German officer, he literally sits his pistol down to change and she does nothing even though only a few feet away. Aside from the scenes not flowing too realistically, I enjoyed the movie as a whole. If you are into B films or just older British films of the action/suspense genre, this is a solid and entertaining one.

Chris Browning
Chris Browning

Super Reviewer

The first meeting of Powell and Pressburger. A decent spy thriller that rises above the usual rah-rah wartime propaganda and allows a human face for the Germans. You can definitely see the beginnings of that P&P touch, although there is also an annoying inconsistency in when they have Germans speaking English or German. It makes the early parts of the film rather confusing... also the music often drowns out the dialogue. The plot is kind of hackneyed too, but heck, it's entertaining enough.

Martin Teller
Martin Teller

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