Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stamboul Quest (1934)


“You just don’t get love mixed up in your love affairs.”

            Have I ever mentioned how much I love any kind of movie or TV show that deals with spying? I am a DIE HARD Alias fanatic (all thanks to my grandparents) I do not even think I can come up with enough words to describe my obsession. Sydney Bristow is my hero. I have seen just about all the James Bond movies (thanks to my brother). I have seen a bunch more spy movies and read a lot of spy novels (I even read Casino Royal by Ian Fleming which was really cool)
            So like the old aviation films I have to ask what could be better than a spy film then one starring my favorite classic actress Myrna Loy (oh goodness how sick you must be of her if you really read my blog! I apologize but I just adore her). Stamboul Quest has Loy playing an infamous German spy known as Fraulein Doktor during World War I with a very well known reputation throughout the world of espionage.  Her real name is Annemarie. She works for a top German spy a man named Von Sturm. She comes back to Germany to Von Sturm’s office reporting that Mata Hari has fallen in love with a man in Paris and that she is quite possibly falling for him to the point where she is telling him secrets.
            A spy working for Von Sturm undercover as a dentist has been found out to be a traitor. The office where he works has been taken over by some thugs working for Von Sturm. Caught in the middle of the siege is an American medical student named Douglas Beall. Von Sturm receives information about Beall and has Annemarie get his attention and pretend to fall for him to see if he has any connection to the traitor spy (which he does not he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time).
            Annemarie along with a fellow spy, go to a restaurant where Beall is that night. They pretend to fight in front of him so that Beall will follow Annemarie out of the restaurant. The plan goes well and both spy and student return to his place. Beall falls madly in love with Annemarie who is posing as Helena Bohlen. She starts to fall for Beall who is nothing but kind and head over heels for her but she reminds herself that this is part of a mission she cannot fall in love like Mata Hari did. Annemarie leaves quickly slipping out of the room without Beall knowing.
            A few days later Annemarie is sent to Turkey on a mission. Beall shows up before she boards the train and he winds up following her all the way to Turkey. She sees he is totally in love with her and she likes it she sees no harm in letting him come with her.
            The mission goes smoothly for a while until Annemarie is forced to improvise and things turn for the worse. Von Sturm becomes concerned that she is falling for the American and is starting to make mistakes. To convince the Turkish general who is part of the mission and Von Sturm that she does not have any feelings or ties to Beall she calls the Turkish police telling them Beall is in the country illegally and to arrest him. Of course there is a plan to get Beall out of the whole mess and the whole mission is cleared with no problem. But Von Sturm not wanting to lose his best spy to love and emotion tells Annemarie that Beall has been killed. Unfortunately Annemarie cannot handle the news and she is sent to a convent where she waits for Beall to come for her.
            The plot is more interesting than I have explained. I cannot tell you everything it would give away too much and the plot of spy/counter spy is too much fun. I will admit I got a little confused at certain points but hey I was a loyal Alias viewer for years and confusion is part of the territory when watching a spy story, to me if you are not confused the story is not good for you will know what is coming next and that is never any fun.
            Without Myrna Loy being in the film Stamboul Quest would not have worked at all. The character of Annemarie/Fraulein Doktor was cool and sophisticated and one who could not show too much emotion. Loy was perfect because she never over acted in any of her roles she was always composed and sophisticated. You can easily see her as this awesome spy but at the same time you can see that she is a woman who can get emotional over love (hell, how many times did Sydney Bristow lose her control when it came to someone she loved? Even James Bond had some love interests he got attached to; he was even married in one of the films). Her acting here is nothing that stands out but she was good as always. Left in the hands of another actress Annemarie/Fraulein Doktor would have been totally unbelievable and too much.
            George Brent as Douglas Beall was adorable. I loved seeing the way he followed Annemarie around like a little puppy dog. He added some needed comedic moments when he was pretending to be Annemarie’s servant and he just acts like a typical clumsy, in your face American.
            Lionel Atwill as Von Sturm was excellent. I love the way he always plays a sinister character he was so good at it that it never got old with him. If you are a film buff you may recognize Leo G. Carroll as the dentist. This was his first film. He would go on to be in Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Spellbound in the ‘40s.
            Stamboul Quest is a good film. I like watching old spy films and then watching a new one and seeing how far technology and espionage has come. Of course I know the espionage told in movies and books comes from fiction and it all romanticized but it is so much fun. Hey, isn’t fantasy so much better than reality at times? Stamboul Quest is not available on DVD or youtube. TCM ran the film a few weeks ago. If TCM ever runs the film again definitely watch it. The plot and the bit of suspense are very good.