Beyond the Curtain (1960)

A propagandist quickie from 1960, unusually from Britain rather than America. A plane flying the Berlin corridor is forced off course by a storm and MiGs make it land in Liepzig, where some squirmy black marketeers are arrested and East German-born air hostess Eva Bartok is detained. Her British fiancé, pilot Richard Greene (sporting an ungallant amount of flab), determines to get her back and slips behind the curtain pretending to be a rep for a tractor firm, but she is torn because she has discovered her old mother (Lucie Mannheim) living in the attic of her former house and in some distress. Her dissident brother (John Welsh) is supposed dead but actually resisting, and suave doctor Marius Goring is working with glowering beef-faced Stasi thug Denis Shaw to get to the brother through the sister. Andree Melly is the cigarette girl who is in with the underground. Director Compton Bennett oddly presents a vision of the West, where patrons of a Berlin nightclub are given fishing rods to take the clothes off the strippers, that seems hardly flattering, but the Communist bloc is typified by unreconstructed Nazi thuggery, with the sole exception of a perhaps-lesbian idealist functionary who first debriefs Bartok. It all ends up in the tunnels under Berlin, with Greene battering down a wall and the ceiling falling on Goring, who solves the plot with offscreen suicide. Even the good character actors don't exactly give it much, and the leads are so bland it's hard to care whether they end up together or where they live.
KIM NEWMAN

First published in this form here.


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