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HollywoodGolightly

"The House on 92nd Street" (1945)

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Watched this a while back but hadn't had a chance to post about it due to the forum glitches.

 

The House on 92nd Street is reportedly the first major semi-documentary made by a major studio, and with a great deal of cooperation with the FBI, which allowed director Henry Hathaway to get plenty of footage of actual FBI surveillance tapes, as well as some access to actual FBI locations.

 

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Some people would not consider this a noir per se - I don't, really, and neither does Eddie Muller, speaking in the DVD's audio commentary -but Fox Home Video released it as part of its Fox Noir series. It does, however, share some things in common with noirs and as Muller himself points out, it probably would have played a lot more like noir with a more subjective narrative that put you in the shoes of the protagonist.

 

The cast, which includes many actual FBI agents, is headed by William Eythe as a German-American who is recruited by the German intelligence services but does the right thing by the USA, cooperating with the FBI to get the inside scoop on what the Nazis were up to at the time.

 

Swedish beauty Signe Hasso plays one of the top Nazi spies, the one who actually heads the spy shop masquerading as a beauty salon on NYC's 92nd street. The cast also includes the great Leo G. Carroll as yet another of the many agents spying for Nazi Germany.

 

There is a nifty little surprise near the end regarding the identity of "Mr. Christopher", the alleged spymaster behind the Nazi's efforts in America, but I wouldn't dream of giving it away. ;)

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I have to say that I did not enjoy this movie very much. On the plus side, the narrator has just the right baritone for a film this awash in righteous patriotism. But this is more about the technical and investigative skills of the FBI and its crusading brilliant methods vs. the sinister and diabolical Nazi agents. There are few thrills and turns. Not anywhere near my top 50.

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Well, I can totally understand someone not liking it if they're expecting a conventional noir, I guess. For me, what did the trick was probably that I enjoy watching anything related to WW2 that was actually made around that period, so even if it isn't something that I'd consider noir, I would still say it's a pretty good semi-documentary.

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