Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Secret of Stamboul / The Spy In White

In the last article I had mentioned reading Dennis Wheatley's The Eunuch of Stamboul and that I had greatly enjoyed the film of the book a long time ago and thought I'd probably not get the chance again.

Wrong! After I published that article I googled the film under the title The Spy In White which was the title of the 1939 re-issue. It came out just after the success of The Spy In Black... Clever eh? Do you see what they did? ...er yes actually...

Anyway the original title on its initial 1936 release was The Secret of Stamboul. Although James Mason takes the hero's part and probably gets the most screen time, Valerie Hobson at a gorgeous 19 years old has the starring credit. She plays Tania, the daughter of an exiled Russian Countess who is blackmailed by the villain of the piece into working as an agent for him.

This villain is Kazdim, the ex-harem eunuch (though the "ex" only refers to the "harem" part of that description) and now the Chief of the Secret Police. Being the star of the show, Valerie's character takes a slight divergence at the end of the film to the Tania of the book and comes to the end of the film a much happia Tania. Incidentally, almost thirty years later Valerie Hobson was the wife of disgraced politician John Profumo who got caught up in a bit of a scandal...

James Mason doesn't even get a mention on this French poster of the film. It was only his second screen appearance. He plays a competent part and looks the hero throughout. After slogging the loutish Turkish Prince Ali, that worthy aristo snarls "I'll not forget this!". Mason's character, Larry Destime, looks coolly back and says "A well-taught lesson should never be forgotten, your Highness."

Frank Vosper plays the fiendish Kazdim, playing the part with gusto and obviously enjoying himself immensely. An actor since 1919 and in films from 1926, he would only make one more film after Secret of Stamboul before he died falling overboard from the ocean liner SS Paris

The Google results took me to a DVD site in the U.S. who had the film and at quite a low cost. The shipping was as expensive as the film... Watched it the other night. Wonderful!

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