Is The Conspirators just a Warner Brothers knock-off of Casablanca? Some critics think so. Me? I think that's just over-analyzing by some film enthusiasts. But there's no doubt Warner Brothers jumped on the international intrigue bandwagon and had the smarts to use Paul Henreid, Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre again. If Casablanca was an extemporaneous accident that somehow became a great picture, The Conspirators turns out to be an over-written screenplay that moves erratically from complicated plot point to complicated plot point.
But if we'll never have Paris, at least we have Lisbon during WWII, city of intrigue, danger, romance and what else?; the amusing twins-in-spirit of Greenstreet and Lorre as resistance fighters; the gorgeous Hedy Lamarr, a better actress and a much smarter woman than she was ever given credit for being; and a large number of classic Warner Brother character actors whose names may be unfamiliar but whose faces and styles are so satisfying we simply sit back and smile when they do their stuff...men such as Victor Francen, Joseph Calleia, Steven Geray and Vladimir Sokoloff.
The plot? Oh yes. Vincent van der Lyn (Paul Henreid) was a Dutch school teacher who now fights the Nazis. He has made his way to Lisbon on his way to London. A team of anti-Nazi fighters based in Lisbon led by Ricardo Quintanilla (Greenstreet), which includes Jan Bernazsky (Peter Lorre), try to disrupt Nazi plans. Lisbon, as we know, was a hotbed of Nazi intrigue. There is information which must be passed on to London; there is a gold coin which serves as identification; and there is the Gestapo determined to steal the coin, get the information and pick off the resistance team.
Complicating matters is Irene Von Mohr (Lamarr), wife of a high-ranking German diplomat, Hugo von Mohr (Francen). Her husband has no sympathy for the Nazis and he rescued Irene from a concentration camp. She may not love him, which he knows, but he is devoted to her and she owes him her life. When van der Lyn meets Irene by accident at a night club, it is just after a man Irene had passed something to in an alley was shot. Can there be a connection? And then Quintanilla informs van der Lyn that there is a traitor who may be a member of Quintantilla's team. And then we learn von Mohr has been ordered back to Berlin and Irene must return with him. And then we learn a trap has been set for the traitor at 11 p.m. at the casino where all the suspects will be playing roulette.
And then we learn...well, you get the idea. All this takes place in elegant casinos and Nazi ballrooms, in crowded streets where assassins lurk, on the seacoast where an old fisherman makes a tasty fish stew, amidst the fog of deep forests and in cars chasing each other down Portuguese roads. If you can keep up with all the plot twists, you're better than I was.
Still, it's always cheering to watch Greenstreet laugh and wobble. He and Lorre make a fascinatingly odd couple. There is enough action and intrigue to keep a person interested, even if things get complicated at times. While Paul Henreid was certainly a good actor, for me he always seemed as a lead to lack charisma. But he, Lamarr and Francen make an intriguing trio, aided immeasurably by Francen's amused sophistication and Lamarr's beauty. All in all, not a bad way to spend some time.
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About the reviewer
C. O. DeRiemer (Charley2)
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more