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Saturday Night Cinema: Dark Journey

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Tonight's delicious little film for your viewing pleasure at Atlas Saturday Night at the Movies is Dark Journey, with the exquisite and extraordinarily talented Vivien Leigh.

NY TIMES: The romantic era of movie spying petered out with the cold war and was finished off in the early 1960's, when John le Carre began publishing realistic novels that portrayed the profession as inhuman, amoral and ruled by petty bureaucrats.

No film better captures the old-time glamour than the 1937 English movie "Dark Journey," which has two screenings on Sunday and two more on Tuesday. In the film, set during World War I, Vivien Leigh plays a couturiere and double agent who lives in Stockholm and works for the French. Leigh, looking radiant enough to launch a thousand ships with one artfully raised eyebrow, enters into a treacherous affair with a German aristocrat and intelligence agent played with icy grandeur by Conrad Veidt.

In the film, directed by Victor Saville, Leigh and Veidt are social magnets who meet in a swirl of banquets and fancy-dress balls. Leigh passes military secrets in numbers woven into the linings of gowns. The numbers are decoded when the fabric is placed against a specially designed lampshade on which is printed a map of the European front.

The unorthodox teaming of Vivien Leigh and Conrad Veidt is but one of the many pleasures of the 1937 spy yarn Dark Journey. Leigh plays a Stockholm dress-shop owner during World War I, who, being a neutral, is permitted to travel unmolested to and from France. Veidt plays a supposedly disgraced German officer who is actually head of his country's secret service. The two fall in love, despite the fact that Leigh has a secret as well: she is a double agent, sympathetic towards the Allied cause. During one of Leigh's voyages to France, her ship is captured by a German U-boat. Veidt swaggers on board, threatening to sink the ship if Leigh is not turned over to him. But the circumstances reverse themselves, and Veidt finds himself Leigh's prisoner–a circumstance that is not altogether unpleasant for him. When originally released in England, Dark Journey bore the title The Anxious Years. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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