Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Traitor (1957)

I watched this movie for Christopher Lee and stayed for the sheer abundance of Hammer actors. 
 This film gives Lee yet another opportunity to sport a fake German accent and act opposite a number of future Hammer Horror colleagues such as Anton Diffring (The Man Who Could Cheat Death), Oscar Quitak (The Revenge of Frankenstein) and John Van Eyssen (Dracula) as well as Robert Bray of Lassie fame. 
 It was the first production to be filmed in the New Elstree Studios, a place that Christopher Lee does not appear to have been too enamoured with. In his autobiography, he remembers that he introduced co-star Donald Wolfit to Tolkien’s The Hobbit there “as a much-needed distraction from the water pouring down the cement walls, the duck boards between the stages traversing a sea of mud, the lights that didn’t work, the absence of windows in the dressing-rooms and the economies made on paint”. 
 The film focuses on a group of German Ex-Resistance fighters who meet annually at a mansion in England at the anniversary of their former leader’s death who had been executed by the Nazis. During this meeting, it becomes apparent that one of the friends must have betrayed him. Before the identity of the traitor can be revealed, however, they are also faced with some other murders in the midst. 
 This is a wonderfully old fashioned chamber piece in the tradition of Agatha Christie that lives by its superb cast and betrays nothing of the challenges associated with the new studio. A specially commissioned piano piece, Prelude Without A Name, plays an important role and the effectiveness of the movie is only somewhat marred by a gimmicky denouement that is out of step with the prior plot developments. 
 I watched the UK release which is probably the preferred one, even though the shorter US version also contains additional scenes not in the UK cut as per this review