DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com Awards & Recommendations at Amazon.com.
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Anatole Litvak
Edward G. Robinson, George Sanders, Francis Lederer
Writing Credits:
Milton Krims, John Wexley

An FBI agent risks his life to infiltrate Nazi sympathizers in the US.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 3/14/2023

Meet the Fleet Short
• Trailer
• “Back Story” Slide Show


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BDT220P Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Confessions of a Nazi Spy [Blu-Ray] (1939)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 28, 2023)

For fairly obvious reasons, Hollywood wouldn’t crank out movies that judged the Axis Powers until after the US entered World War II in late 1941. However, that doesn’t mean studios avoided these topics altogether, and for an early entry in this genre, we go to 1939’s Confessions of a Nazi Spy.

The German-American Bund consists of Germans who live in the US. Led by Doctor Karl Kassel (Paul Lukas), the organization receives orders from the homeland to rally support for Hitler’s regime.

Along the way, Dr. Kassel recruits unemployed malcontent Kurt Schneider (Francis Lederer) to operate as part of a spy ring that also includes Franz Schlager (George Sanders) and Hilda Kleinhauer (Dorothy Tree). As this group attempts to subvert American democracy, FBI Agent Edward Renard (Edward G. Robinson) works to stop them.

Spy comes influenced by real events, a factor that the filmmakers play up throughout the movie. Mainly this comes from the reference to specifics dates and use of narration.

The voiceover pops up fairly frequently and comes out in a way that lends a newsreel air to the proceedings. This feels like an attempt to give the tale a sense of “realism” atypical for fictional work.

Too bad it doesn’t work, mainly because Spy comes with an oddly meandering narrative. While the synopsis implies a form of detective thriller, instead we get a rambling mix of domains.

We spend a lot of time with Kassel, Schneider, Schlager and others before Spy even sniffs the investigation that feels like it should be at the movie’s core. Heck, Renard doesn’t even enter the picture until 42 minutes into the flick – and then he promptly goes AWOL for about 15 minutes.

When Renard re-emerges, one might expect the story to kick into gear. Instead, it remains stuck in neutral.

A lot of Spy comes off as anti-Nazi propaganda. Not that it gets anything wrong – obviously Hitler’s Germany deserved all the negativity – but this means the movie’s agenda trumps its attempts to tell much of a story.

We follow a melange of characters as they pursue their “German superiority” without much beyond that. The actors – even the usually solid Sanders – overact to the hilt and make this material borderline campy.

Renard dominates the final third of the movie, but as noted, he doesn’t help make the tale more compelling. His investigation continues to seem more concerned with the desire to educate the US public about the nature of Nazi Germany than to create a taut tale.

Indeed, the entire final few minutes of Spy offer some of the most obvious proselytizing one can imagine. The movie goes into overt propaganda mode to warn Americans of the Nazi threat.

Given the politics of the time, I can’t say this acts as a bad choice. Barely 20 years after the end of World War I and still suffering from the Great Depression, much of the US lacked any appetite for another European conflict.

Seen from the hindsight of many decades later, we realize the necessity of US involvement in this domain, but from the POV of the time, the disinterest makes sense. As such, I understand that those behind Spy felt the need to educate Americans about the truth.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t make Spy an entertaining movie 80-plus years later. With a thin plot and hammy performances, it offers nothing more than a historical curiosity.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

Confessions of a Nazi Spy appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Warner Archives’ Blu-rays are pretty much money in the bank, and this became another winner.

Sharpness satisfied. Virtually no softness materialized, so the film appeared well-defined and accurate.

Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no problems. Edge haloes remained absent, and with a layer of fine grain, I suspected no issues with digital noise reduction.

Black levels seemed nicely deep and dark, and contrast was appropriately displayed. The movie showed a good silvery look, and shadow detail was also concise and developed.

Source flaws failed to become an issue. The transfer eliminated those defects and left this as a clean presentation. I felt very happy with this appealing transfer.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack, it replicated the original material with positive quality. Dialogue seemed fine for its era, and was relatively crisp and well-defined with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility.

In terms of the score, it was acceptably broad and clear. The material presented little low end but the dynamics were fine for a track of this vintage.

Though effects were similarly dated, they seemed adequately clean and realistic, and no aspects of the mix displayed signs of distortion. Background noise failed to become an issue. All in all, the audio worked fine for its age.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a short film called Meet the Fleet. From 1939, it runs 20 minutes, 21 seconds.

Fleet features some new Navy recruits who go through training. It’s a fairly dull comedic piece of propaganda noteworthy because it features actors like Robert Armstrong and pre-Superman George Reeves. Though worthwhile for archival value, I can’t call it an especially entertaining effort.

Finally, we locate a Backstory Slide Show. This offers text that tells us about the production and its influences/impact to give us a smattering of useful notes.

With it lurid tabloid title, Confessions of a Nazi Spy promises a fiery thriller. Instead, it provides a sluggish propaganda piece. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals as well as adequate audio and minor bonus materials. While it comes with historical value as an early Hollywood attempt to shine light on Nazi Germany, the movie just doesn’t entertain.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main