The Counterfeit Traitor
Sound: B- Extras: D Film: C-
One of the odd things about George Seaton’s version of
Alexander Klein’s The Counterfeit Traitor (1961) is its obvious desire
to do a World War II Spy story as if it were Sunset Blvd. (1950). This comes by way of none other than the
great William Holden, who plays the oil-dealing American who has given up the
U.S. for supposedly neutral Sweden.
This makes him a target for a plot to deal with the Nazis, but it is
trickier than it seems.
Unfortunately, Holden is given extended voice-over work
and then the film itself is very talky.
That means it wants to be more cerebral, with voice over even cutting
out the talking. The approach never
works. This was still ambitious for its
time, but has also date din its treatment of the Nazis, which is limited, too
passive for its own good and that makes all the talk come more forward until
the film almost becomes a spoof of itself.
It is still an ambitious, professional production, but simply has not
dated well. At least The Counterfeit
Traitor takes itself seriously throughout, so it deserves credit for that,
where most such films these days do not.
The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image looks good, if
a bit dated, but was originally released in dye-transfer three-strip
Technicolor prints. Some of the legacy
of that comes through on the Jean Bourgin cinematography. This is a rich-looking film, taking full
advantage of its locations. The Dolby
Digital 2.0 Mono offers the original sound somewhat cleaned up, but is not as
good as the Dolby 5.1 remix, which prominently features an Alfred Newman score
outside of 20th Century Fox.
This helps watching the film tremendously and the score enhances a film
that drags. There are no extras. However, some aspects of this film are bound
to be referenced in future Spy thrillers, so you will want to see it at least
- Nicholas Sheffo