The House on 92nd Street [film]

I caught this wartime spy film on Film4 on one of my days off, and thought it would be great to cover for Spy Month. (I haven't forgotten Spy Month, despite last week's steampunk shenanigans.) The House on 92nd Street was a wartime spy drama, released just after World War II, with the plot loosley based on the real-life Duquesne Spy Ring. A young student is approached by the Germans but turns double-agent for the FBI, and helps them pass along false information to the Germans. Meanwhile a German agent is killed in a road accident and it becomes clear that someone is passing along nuclear secrets. The double agent needs to identify that agent. Eventually the whole ring gets rounded up.

As a film it's not entirely satisfactory as there's a lot of voiceover, which means you're never quite able to get immersed in the action, although it is needed as the story jumps about a bit.

What I found so very disturbing about this film was the level to which everyone was being watched, and that the film makes it explicit people are being watched. When the FBI aren't sure who's leaking secrets from the lab, everyone there gets watched. I know it's wartime and these things are necessary, but the way it's presented, as a great, laudable thing, took me by surprise. Maybe it's because I'm British; I can't help thinking a British film would've been rather more apologetic about the snooping! It was fun seeing the various parts of the FBI, though, including the huge, mechanised, extremely efficient, fingerprint sorting room. (Lots of women were doing the work. Men talked about the results. Sigh.)

I don't know if I'd watch it again, but if you are interested in wartime propaganda films it's worth seeing.


  1. Wasn't keen on the whole the ends justify the means schtick the film was peddling, deleted it from my PVR before it finished.

  2. Hoorah! I didn't think anyone else had seen that film. I did find it disturbing.


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