Highly Dangerous (1950) – Movie Review
Frances Gray is a British entomologist who lives with her sister and young nephew, having never met a man who is not disturbed by the subjects of her work. While preparing to take a vacation, she is met by a man from British Intelligence, Mr. Hedgerly, who asks her help in identifying a species of bug agents of the Iron Curtain are experimenting with and whether they pose any danger. Frances politely refuses and continues preparations to leave on her ‘holiday’. Only afterwards she begins thinking about the consequences of the only other available entomologist going, an elderly man, and how his chances of survival would be slim. She calls Hedgerly and accepts the mission.
Her cover is Frances Conway, in reference to a radio show she listens to about a secret agent named Frank Conway and his partner Rusty. She travels as a tourist agent looking for new attractions in the vicinity where, coincidentally, the bugs are being held. Her contact takes no time setting plans to sneak into the laboratory and while waiting on him at a restaurant for further planning, she meets an American reporter called Bill Casey. He recognizes Frances from a magazine she was featured in but Frances plays the part well and calmly denies his charges.
Later that day, she finds her contact dead in her hotel room and the already suspicious Chief of Police, whom she met on the train, arrests her. After methods of intimidation, he has her injected with a truth serum. What he doesn’t know is the questions they ask trigger thoughts of Frank Conway, secret agent, and her answers only confuse them. A man from the British Embassy arrives with Bill and arranges her release. The Chief of Police demands that she take the first train home.
While Bill drives her back to her hotel, it’s obvious Frances has no intentions of heeding the police and is instead thinking hard about how to complete her mission. Incidentally, she begins calling him Rusty and tells him to meet her at a restaurant and bring a magnifying glass. Confused and unable to get any more out of her, Bill complies.
When they meet she gets down to business, laying out a wild plan to get through the guards and break into the laboratory. Bill tries to piece together what she is trying to do while discouraging her from her dangerous intentions. But it’s obvious her mind is set and he has little choice but to go with her. They take measures to shake the man trailing her and proceed toward the laboratory, where they get in unnoticed and take necessary samples and notes.
Unfortunately, the serum responsible for her “adventurous” delusions begins to
wear off, leaving her a bit dazed. Bill manages to get them out but their presence is known. The next couple of days are treacherous for them. They hide in the woods until they are discovered by a priest who organizes papers and tickets for them. They come close to getting caught when the Chief of Police orders a train inspection. But through quick measures on Bill’s part, they remain unnoticed.
Reaching Britain at long last, their trouble is not over. Customs officers are holding them on account of their insect samples when Frances realizes the bugs are beginning to eat each other. Time is running short as she and Bill endeavor to feed the insects. Hedgerly arrives and while trying to clear up the situation, the Frank Conway radio program begins playing and Frances frantically tries to silence it. Bill notices but doesn’t have time to give it any more thought when he is refused the opportunity to publish the story about the insects. Fortunately, the two having fallen for each other during their dangerous escapades, Frances is able to “persuade” him it is for the better.
This British suspense is a fairly new one in our old movie arsenal, as is British
actress Margaret Lockwood. We first saw her in two other wartime suspenses that we also enjoyed very much. The first is The Lady Vanishes, an Alfred Hitchcock that lives up to the reputation. Lockwood plays a bored rich girl who becomes embroiled in a Nazi spy plot.
The second is Night Train to Munich where Lockwood plays the daughter of a Czech scientist during the second World War, playing a desperate game of cat and mouse from the enemy. Margaret Lockwood has quickly become a new favorite of mine.
I really like how unlike many wartime espionage movies, Highly Dangerous tries something a little new. Experimenting with biological warfare that necessitates the employment of a scientist. Another thing you have to hand it to Frances is for, unlike many female characters in movies, she keeps her head, even if her inexperience in espionage is evident.
Dane Clark plays the excellent American sidekick and the love story between the two is just enough.
We have a joke in my family. Though we watch British movies as much as (if not on occasion, more than) American movies, we love to insist that they can’t help but bring an American in because they can’t do without us. All you British readers don’t be offended. We’re just stroking our American pride.
Thanks for reading my review! I intend to write reviews on both the other movies I’ve mentioned so keep a look out.