|Directed by||Fritz Lang|
|Produced by||Erich Pommer|
|Written by||Fritz Lang
Thea von Harbou
|Music by||Werner R. Heymann|
|Cinematography||Fritz Arno Wagner|
|Running time||178 min. (16 frame/s)|
Spione (English title: Spies, under which title it was released in the United States) is a German silent espionage thriller written and directed by Fritz Lang in 1928. Lang's wife, Thea von Harbou, worked as a co-writer. The film was Lang's penultimate silent film, and the first for his own production company; Fritz Lang-film GmbH. As in Lang's Mabuse films, such as Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, Rudolf Klein-Rogge plays a master criminal aiming for world domination.
Spione was restored to its original length by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung during 2003 and 2004. No original negatives survive, but a high quality nitrate copy is held at the Národní Filmový Archiv at Prague.
Beautiful Russian spy Sonja Baranikowa (Gerda Maurus) seduces Colonel Jellusic (Fritz Rasp) into betraying his country for her employer, Haghi (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), a seemingly respectable bank director who is actually the criminal mastermind of a powerful espionage organization. Jason (Craighall Sherry), head of the Secret Service, gives the task of bringing the mysterious Haghi down to a handsome young agent known only as Number 326 (Willy Fritsch). 326 believes his identity is a secret, but Haghi is well aware of him. He assigns Sonja to worm her way into 326's confidence. She convinces 326 that she has just shot a man who tried to force himself on her. He hides her from the police.
What Haghi does not anticipate is that the couple will fall in love. Unwilling to betray 326, she quietly slips away after they spend the afternoon and evening together. He trails her to Colonel Jellusic, whom he mistakes for her lover (she is actually paying him for his treason). Haghi suspects Sonya's feelings for 326. When she refuses to act against 326, he confines her to a room in his secret headquarters.
Meanwhile, Haghi is after a crucial, secret Japanese treaty. He blackmails Lady Leslane (Hertha von Walther), an opium addict, into betraying what her husband knows of the negotiations. Akira Masimoto (Lupu Pick), the Japanese head of security responsible for the treaty's safekeeping, crosses paths with 326. When 326 seeks out Sonya, he finds her apartment stripped bare. Masimoto finds him drowning his sorrows in a bar and informs him that he would have arrested the woman as a spy had she not disappeared.
Masimoto gives each of three couriers a sealed packet to deliver to Tokyo; he informs them that a copy of the treaty is inside one of them. Haghi obtains all three packages, but finds only newspapers. However, Haghi has one more card up his sleeve. Masimoto pities Kitty (Lien Deyers), a young woman he finds huddling in a doorway during a rainstorm, and takes her in. When he prepares to leave for Japan with the treaty, she begs him to spend a few hours with her. He gives in, attracted by her beauty. However, when he wakes up later, she is gone, as is the treaty. Disgraced, he commits ritual suicide.
326 tracks Jellusic down, but too late. To tie up loose ends, Haghi has already betrayed the colonel. When confronted by his superiors, Jellusic shoots himself to avoid a scandal. 326 wires the serial numbers of the bank notes used to pay Jellusic, which Jason passes on to agent 719, working undercover as a circus clown, to trace.
On the train trip back, 326 is nearly killed in a trap set by Haghi. While he is sleeping, his car is detached and left in a tunnel. He awakens just before another train smashes into it. Sonya, tricked into trying to smuggle the treaty out of the country by Haghi's promise not to harm 326, learns of the crash, races to the site and is reunited with her love.
326 orders Haghi's bank surrounded. Then he sends Sonya away with his trusted chauffeur, Franz (Paul Hörbiger), while he and his men search for Haghi. However, Haghi captures Sonya and Franz, and sends 326 an ultimatum: clear the building within 15 minutes or Sonya will die. After agonizing, 326 continues searching, even after poison gas is released. Fortunately, Franz is able to free himself and hold off Haghi's assassins until 326 can find them. Haghi's minions are captured, but there is no sign of the mastermind.
Later, a clerk complains to 326 and Jason that the serial numbers he was given to trace do not match the actual bank notes. The two realize that 719 must be none other than Haghi himself. When Haghi goes on stage to perform his clown act, he sees that he is surrounded by agents. He shoots himself in the head. The audience, believing it is all just part of his act, applauds.
According to Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies, Lang was having an affair with Maurus during Spione's production, even as his wife Thea von Harbou was involved writing the screenplay. In addition, Lang had earlier stolen the affections of von Harbou from her first husband, Klein-Rogge, who played Haghi. In spite of this, Klein-Rogge worked with Lang and von Harbou on various notable films, including Destiny, Dr. Mabuse the Gambler, Die Nibelungen, and Metropolis.
- Spione at the Internet Movie Database
- Spione at Allmovie
- Spione at TCM
- Machinations of an Incoherent, Malevolent Universe by Adrian Martin
- Darragh O’Donoghue in senses of cinema