Contraband

Overview

The Danish freighter Helvig approaches English waters in early 1940 and, in keeping with the needs of British security, it is boarded by customs and naval officials in search of contraband cargo. Her skipper, Captain Anderson (Conrad Veidt), is compelled to ascede to British demands, but dreads the delay, pointing out that the medical supplies in his cargo are vital. Anderssen is a dedicated seaman, all business, even where Mrs. Sorenson (Valerie Hobson), a headstrong passenger, is concerned. Then, on their first...
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Overview

The Danish freighter Helvig approaches English waters in early 1940 and, in keeping with the needs of British security, it is boarded by customs and naval officials in search of contraband cargo. Her skipper, Captain Anderson (Conrad Veidt), is compelled to ascede to British demands, but dreads the delay, pointing out that the medical supplies in his cargo are vital. Anderssen is a dedicated seaman, all business, even where Mrs. Sorenson (Valerie Hobson), a headstrong passenger, is concerned. Then, on their first night in port, Mrs. Sorenson and a Mr. Pidgeon (Esmond Knight) disappear from the ship with Anderson's landing papers, the captain is in hot pursuit. Forced to join the woman in what seems a mad chase across London by night, he plunges into an Alice-in-Wonderland world of the blacked out city, following a set of clues through the maze of darkened streets and uncover a Nazi spy ring operating out of a basement in Soho. Each also discovers that there's a lot to admire and even possibly to love in the other -- the challenge is for Hobson, who is something other than the divorcee and mother she pretends to be, to stay alive long enough for Captain Anderson to effect a rescue and prevent the German spies from turning the British counter-intelligence effort against the Allies.
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Special Features

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
In 1938, Michael Powell completed a movie for Alexander Korda's London Films entitled The Spy In Black, a World War I espionage thriller with a screenplay by Emeric Pressburger, starring Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson. For reasons best known to himself, Korda held the film back from release for almost a year, and then issued it as the war broke out between England and Germany -- although it was set during World War I, the plot about a German plan to sink the British fleet anchored at Scapa Flow had a veneer of topicality, and the chemistry between Veidt and Hobson combined to turn it into an unexpected major hit, on both sides of the Atlantic. In England, it was a huge success during the period of the so-called "Phony War," and the blackouts that were enforced -- among the more oft-used shots of London under blackout from late 1939 and early 1940 includes the image of a huge movie marquee showing "The Spy In Black." It was during that same period that Powell and Pressburger decided that a follow-up film was in order. And the result was Contraband. Set during the period of the Phony War, amid blacked out London, it told a tale of suspense and espionage, filled with irony, and topical humor, and romance as well. As England was at war, it was impossible to have Veidt portray a sympathetic German, and so he played a Danish sea captain whose ship is boarded and seized by British authorities in search of contraband. Even this was something of a challenge by Powell and Pressburger to the established sensibilities of the period -- one wasn't supposed to focus patriotic movies upon the plight of neutrals caught up in the war, much less make them justifiably proud and defiant, and sympathetic. Hobson was largely repeating the role that she had played in The Spy In Black, in characteristics and performance if not name, of a capable and independent woman. Their characters still strike sparks, Veidt in perhaps the most romantic role of his entire career and Hobson at her most alluring. Powell and Pressburger managed to have some good-natured fun with the entire notion of the blackout imposed on London by night, and the uneasy situation of aliens living in a city at war, as well as recent politics -- the repeated image of a warehouse filled with busts of Neville Chamberlain, England's discredited appeasement-oriented prime minister, was one of the funniest, most subversive, and most patriotic images to be found in any wartime British thriller. Additionally, Powell paced the action here very fast amid the humor of Pressburger's script, so that the film stacks up very well against Hitchcock's rival contemporary release, the Hollywood-filmed Foreign Correspondent.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 4/24/2001
  • UPC: 738329021122
  • Original Release: 1940
  • Rating:

  • Source: Kino Video
  • Region Code: 1
  • Presentation: Black & White
  • Time: 1:28:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 34,056

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Conrad Veidt Capt. Anderson
Valerie Hobson Mrs. Sorenson
Hay Petrie Axel Skold/Erik Skold
Joss Ambler Lieutenant Commander Ashton RNR
Raymond Lovell Van Dyne
Esmond Knight Mr. Pidgeon
Charles Victor Hendrick
Dennis Arundell Lieman
Harold Warrender Lieutenant Commander Ellis RN
John H. Roberts Hanson
Eric Berry Mr. Abo
Olga Edwardes Mrs. Abo
Julien Vedey Waiter
John Longden Passport Officer
Eric Maturin Passport Officer
Paddy Browne Singer
Leo Genn 1st Brother Grimm
Stuart Latham 2nd Brother Grimm
Peter Bull 3rd Brother Grimm
Eric Hales Second Karoly
Manning Whiley Manager of "Mousetrap"
Mark Daly Taxi driver
Deborah Kerr Bit Part (uncredited)
Bernard Miles Man lighting pipe
Torin Thatcher Sailor
Technical Credits
Michael Powell Director, Screenwriter
Richard Addinsell Score Composer
John Corfield Producer
Emeric Pressburger Screenwriter
Roland Gillett Associate Producer
John Greenwood Score Composer
Alfred Junge Art Director
Anthony Nelson Keys Production Manager
Muir Mathieson Musical Direction/Supervision
John Seabourne Editor
C.C. Stevens Sound/Sound Designer
A.W. Watkins Sound/Sound Designer
Brock Williams Screenwriter
Freddie Young Cinematographer
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Opening Credits [1:18]
2. Obey the Captain's Orders! [6:43]
3. The Helvig Is Detained [9:43]
4. Sneaking Ashore [5:30]
5. Pursuit to London [7:05]
6. Blackout [3:24]
7. The Three Vikings [8:32]
8. Aunt Kate's Not Home [3:54]
9. A Revealing Interrogation [9:46]
10. Tied Up [5:46]
11. The Adventures of Anderson [6:53]
12. Finding the Banjo [9:44]
13. Busted [4:50]
14. Drop That Life Jacket! [4:32]
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Play the Movie
   Chapter Selection
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