Contraband (1940 film)
Poster from trade screening 20 March 1940
|Directed by||Michael Powell|
|Produced by||John Corfield|
|Written by||Story & Screenplay:
|Music by||Richard Addinsell
Direction, Muir Mathieson
|Edited by||John Seabourne|
|Release dates||11 May 1940 (UK)
29 November (US)
|Running time||92 min. (UK)
80 min. (US)
Contraband (1940) is a wartime spy film by the British director-writer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, which brought stars Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson together again after their success in The Spy in Black the previous year.
The title of the film in the United States was Blackout. Powell is quoted in his autobiography, A Life in Movies, that the US renaming was a better title and he wished he'd thought of it.
Many people find it refreshing to see Conrad Veidt playing a hero character; something he was not allowed to do very often. There is also an early uncredited performance by Leo Genn.
Danish Captain Andersen (Conrad Veidt) is stopped for a cargo inspection in a British Contraband Control Port in the first year of World War II, before Denmark has been occupied by the Germans. He gets some shore passes for himself and his First Officer but they are stolen by passengers Mrs. Sorensen (Valerie Hobson) and Mr. Pidgeon (Esmond Knight) who take a boat and go ashore. Capt. Andersen decides to follow them and the journey takes them through blacked-out London and to various strange characters and adventures.
- Conrad Veidt as Capt. Andersen
- Valerie Hobson as Mrs. Sorensen
- Hay Petrie as Axel Skold / Erik Skold
- Joss Ambler as Lt. Cmdr. Ashton, RNR
- Raymond Lovell as Van Dyne
- Esmond Knight as Mr. Pidgeon
- Charles Victor as Hendrick
- Phoebe Kershaw as Miss Lang
- Harold Warrender as Lt. Cmdr. Ellis, RN
- John Longden as Passport officer
- Eric Maturin as Passport officer
- Paddy Browne as Singer in "Regency"
- Dennis Arundell as Lieman
- Molly Hamley-Clifford as Baroness Hekla
- Eric Berry as Mr. Abo
- Cast notes
- Leo Genn and Peter Bull as two of Van Dyne's associates
- Milo O'Shea made his film debut, in the uncredited role of an air raid warden.
Also making their screen debut were director Michael Powell's golden cocker spaniels, Erik and Spangle, who went on to appear in the Powell and Pressburger films The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), I Know Where I'm Going! (1945) and A Matter of Life and Death, also known as Stairway to Heaven (1946).
Contraband was intended as a followup to Powell and Pressburger's The Spy in Black, which was filmed at the end of 1938, but was not released by Alexander Korda for almost a year. The current film was in production from 16 December 1939 through 27 January 1940  at Denham Film Studios, with location shooting in London at Chester Square in Belgravia, and in Ramsgate in Kent.
- "An odd little comic thriller - who, except perhaps Michael Powell, would cast 47-year-old Cabinet of Dr. Caligari star Conrad Veidt as a light romantic hero?" - TV Guide online review.
- "Less stylish than The Spy in Black, this espionage thriller is more fun, with its tongue-in-cheek plot revelling in Hitchcockian eccentricities" - Time Out.
- "A neat Second World War espionage thriller that depicts a London crawling with spies" - Radio Times.
- Contraband reviews and articles at the Powell & Pressburger Pages
- Contraband at the Internet Movie Database
- Contraband at the TCM Movie Database
- Contraband at AllMovie
- Contraband at the British Film Institute's Screenonline. Full synopsis and film stills (and clips viewable from UK libraries).