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also known as Blackout

Contraband1940

  • 3.7

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Wartime thriller by the legendary filmmaking duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.


2 members like this review

Sexy. Loaded. Powell / Pressburger for the cause. Conrad Veidt as lead pulls it off. Valerie Hobson as... well, no spoilers. So many nice little touches.

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Member Reviews (14)

Sexy. Loaded. Powell / Pressburger for the cause. Conrad Veidt as lead pulls it off. Valerie Hobson as... well, no spoilers. So many nice little touches.

2 members like this review

After a rather slow start, this movie is an exciting spy thriller where the real identities aren't clear until pretty far into the movie, so there's a lot of ambiguity. This makes it more interesting than a run of the mill spy story. The movie was shot in blackout conditions and is really atmospheric. Gives a better sense of what blackout was like than any other movie I've seen. The end is quite exciting and the chemistry between the leads is fantastic.

1 member likes this review

found it interesting 2c a woman b treated as intelligent

1 member likes this review
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Refreshing WW2 piece with interesting cinematography. Spies and B&W. Recommend.

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top reviewer

Michael Powell's Contraband (1940) (aka Blackout) is a British WWII propaganda film, a less than mediocre schlock production that suggests just how rapidly, and sloppily the Brits were cranking out wartime propaganda to quell the well founded fears of the British public about a German invasion in the early years of the war.

The screenplay by Emeric Pressburger is just a patchwork of story elements that just don't seem to come together as a whole story, and seems like it was quickly written during a coffee break. That Captain Anderson would leave his ship to chase after a couple of passengers who absconded with his military issued passes rather than to just notify the authorities is just stupid. That the film never explains how Mrs Sorensen and Mr Pigeon even knew about the passes and their location in the first place is even more stupid. That the film has Captain Anderson running around London just maxes out the stupid scale because the film offers no reasonable motivation for him to do so. That he continues his chase through London without ever even thinking about getting the cops involved, even after the Nazi spy ring is revealed to him, and even knocking out a bobby in the process is just from outer space. Why Mrs Sorensen and Mr Pigeon s would so suddenly and decidedly leave the ship, when the British interception of the Danish ship they were on was apparently unplanned, and unexpected is just unexplainable. The warehouse scene overflowing with busts of PM Neville Chamberlain is just bizarre, and reflects a lack of thought by the filmmaker. That a group of waiters from a Danish restaurant would enthusiastically volunteer to join Captain Anderson, a customer they just met that night, on his mindless chase through London just because they are all Danish and because the Danish "don't need a good reason to get into a fight" is just absurd, and is just a pathetic piece of screenwriting.

The romantic coupling of Veldt and Hobson in the lead roles is utterly hilarious and unconvincing since Veldt is not only old enough to be Hobson's father, but looks aged enough to actually be her father. That an attractive young woman like Hobson would fall for a golden ager like Veldt in real life could only be a product of wartime induced desperation. Veldt is also miscast for the daring, adventurous hero who is busting up a Nazi spy ring in the latter part of the film, engaging in physical confrontations in the process, because he just looks too old for this decidedly hero role. The only sense that I can make of casting Veldt as the male lead in this ill conceived film is that younger, more suitable male actors already enlisted in the military for the war effort, and that only someone like Veldt, who is clearly too old to join the military at the time of this war film, was one of the leftovers who were available.

The warehouse filled with PM Neville Chamberlain busts, the "free for all" brawl scene in the night club, the Black male dancers in African garb dancing on stage with White female dancers in one nightclub scene, and the ridiculous caricature of the owner/chef of the Danish restaurant all suggest the gratuitous use of very unusual imagery as a substitute for good screenwriting, because none of this outlandish imagery contributed at all to the development of the storyline at the points in the film where they were shown.

Giving the benefit of the doubt to the screenwriter, I would suggest that the screenplay was written by someone who was working under the pressures of a rapidly approaching deadline, and did the best he could, which was decidedly not very good. I would also give the benefit of the doubt to the casting director for the blatant miscasting of Veldt as the male lead, and just suggest that he chose the best possible candidate under the pressures of a rapidly approaching deadline. But deadlines or not, a schlock film is still just a schlock film.

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top reviewer

What you fail to realize is the popularity of Conrad Veidt, particularly in England where he arrived in the early 30's after escaping Nazi persecution. This was one of Europe's greatest actors in the silent era ("Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," "The Man Who Laughs", "The Hands of Orloff") and he continued to be a dynamic and charismatic presence in England. The man had SCREEN PRESENCE whether he was "the good guy" or "the bad guy". One slogan from an early British film he starred in was, "Women fight for Conrad Veidt!" He was quite generous to his adopted country, giving much of his film earnings to the British war effort.

Excellent period piece. Dramatic mystery.

Sehr gut!

A Michael Powell film, so I knew I would enjoy it. A good action spy thriller.

First Rate.. Would not have missed it.

great movie as expected from Powell/Pressburger

A very good movie to watch, some drama, some love, and some action. I really liked this movie it made me think that the Germans were pretty stupid people. I submit they lost we won, end of story.

Grosartig

good film

If you associate Conrad Veldt with the acidic Nazi officer in Casablanca, the romp in Contraband is a rich feast of madcap Danes, quirky passengers, English officials, bumbling German agents, and a complex sea captain (Veldt).