There’s a moment in ‘Spione’ when our hero, a love-struck spy who has just discovered he’s lost his heart to an agent from the enemy side, wanders the street with posters advertising the movie ‘Metropolis’ pasted row upon row on the wall behind him. This might be the very first time that a director referenced himself in his own motion picture because ‘Spione’ was directed and written by the ‘Metropolis’ dream-team of Fritz Lang and Thea Von Harbou.

But where ‘Metropolis’ is a genius prediction of an elitist skyscrapered future, ‘Spione’ is a down-and-dirty tale of espionage, stolen documents, ruthless assassinations, and exotic honeytraps. The hero, posing as a stubbly vagrant when we first meet him, quickly swings into action as the clean-cut romantic lead not realising the woman he loves is in fact an icy femme fatale working for a wheel-chaired Master Spy who, entrenched in a secret headquarters of metal staircases and gantries with enormous maps on the wall that make the whole place look like an early model for a Bond villain hideout, is determined to bring the free-world to its knees.

There are electronic bugs concealed in vases. Tiny secret cameras worn on lapels. A ride on the Orient Express, a high-speed car chase, an impressive train smash, one cleverly orchestrated hari-kiri and a desperate race against time to catch the villain and save the girl. There’s a bizarre nightclub scene that begins with a boxing match and ends with rich couples dancing outside the ring in all their evening-dressed finery. There’s fetishism, cyanide capsules and a beautiful blonde villainess who knows how to work a kimono.

All the spy movie tropes we love are here, several decades before they became tropes. There’s a macguffin about the theft of a Japanese treaty and an impending war, long before Hitchcock coined the term ‘macguffin’, and proof that spies liked to disguise themselves as clowns more than a half-century before 007 did it in ‘Octopussy’.

‘Spione’ is fast paced, sexy and mesmerising. Even though we can see many of the twists and turns coming long before they arrive and the film – through no fault of its own – very occasionally tapdances on the edge of parody (but only because we’ve seen variations of this story a thousand times before, although it all began here) the movie is a genuine thrill-ride and proves that, although Lang will always be best known for the sci-fi masterpiece ‘Metropolis’, his command of the thriller was second-to-none. Before ‘Spione’ came ‘Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler’ and after ‘Spione’ would come the chilling portrait of a child murderer called ‘M’. Where crime and the underworld is concerned Fritz Lang is in his element and even though ‘Spione’ has a running time of 153 minutes it is so complex, enjoyable and immersing you won’t notice the time pass.

As for the disc:

The picture, considering the negative no longer exists and the film had to be patchworked together from elements discovered in various collections across the world, is remarkable in its clarity and detail and, although spattered with speckles, lines and other source imperfections throughout its running time, are never a distraction. The musical soundtrack is appropriately energetic with one or two humorous little soundcues and fits the onscreen action well.

According to publicity materials, the disc will also include a 69 minute documentary which was unfortunately not on my screener but I can vouch for the 40 page booklet – a Eureka! staple, and always excellent – which is beautifully illustrated and contains a couple of fascinating essays by Murielle Joudet and Jonathan Rosenbaum.

As a fan of ‘Metropolis’ (and the fine release Eureka! produced of that movie) I was eager to see ‘Spione’ and I wasn’t disappointed. This is another excellent release from Eureka! and their Masters of Cinema collection and highly recommended, not just for fans of silent cinema, but also for admirers of a rip-roaring adventure story incredibly well told.

Blu-ray Review: Spione (Spies)
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About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at