Before making his best-known films like Rififi or Night and the City, Jules Dassin worked at MGM. He first directed a short Edgar Allen Poe adaptation in 1941, and then made his feature debut with the thriller Nazi Agent (also known as Salute to Courage) in 1942. Unlike other contemporary debuts of talented directors (Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, or later The Major and the Minor), Dassin’s first film unfortunately doesn’t surpass its cheap limitations, or showcase the talent the filmmaker showed off in later work.
The film stars Conrad Veidt, a great German character actor who appeared as the killer in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari early in his career, and as the villain of Casablanca later in 1942. The hook of the film is that Veidt plays identical twin brothers: one a loyal American citizen, the other the leader of a Nazi spy ring. When the Nazi brother confronts the other to spy for Germany, the American kills his brother, taking his place to stop the planned attacks. Veidt brings what he can to the film, but he’s no leading man, and the age difference between him and love interest Ann Ayars is laughable.
The script, written by Paul Gangelin, John Meehan Jr., and Lothar Mendes, takes satisfactory if expected turns. But aside from its exciting opening montage and political timeliness, nothing much sets Nazi Agent apart from other B thriller pictures of the time.
Where to Watch
Not currently available to stream, rent, or even to buy on DVD or VHS. Look for airings on Turner Classic Movies.