Adventures of Tartu (1943)
aka Tartu (1943) aka Sabotage Agent (1943)
Directed by Harold Bucquet with a story by John Higgins and a screenplay by John Lee Mahin (Captains Courageous (1937)) and Howard Emmett Rogers this slightly above average espionage thriller was the first film MGM Studios was able to get Robert Donat to agree to do after his Oscar winning performance in Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939); he had a right of refusal clause in his contract. As British Captain Terence Stevenson who defuses a bomb in a partially collapsed London hospital during World War II Donat’s character is asked to assume the identity of Romanian chemist Jan Tartu in order to infiltrate and destroy a German poison gas factory hidden in Prague Czechoslovakia. Stevenson was chosen to become a spy because of his familiarity with the area and the languages from his youth. As Tartu he pretends to be a dandy that wants to serve der Fuhrer (Adolf Hitler) but must make contact with the Czech resistance while avoiding detection and capture by the Nazis for whom he’ll work. Valerie Hobson Walter Rilla Glynis Johns Phyllis Morris and Martin Miller are among those who also appear in key roles.
When the only contact Tartu knows is captured and later killed right after they’d met he must find a way to find and get help from the Czech resistance without alerting Nazi Inspector Otto Vogel (Rilla) and the other Germans. Vogel assigns Tartu to live in Anna Palacek’s (Morris) boarding house and a job watching Czech slave laborers in a munitions plant. Vogel has eyes for Maruschuka Lanova (Hobson) who lives in the same boarding house as Tartu and Anna’s daughter Paula (Johns). Tartu soon learns that all three women are part of the resistance movement and after protecting Paula when she’d killed a German general he earns Maruschuka’s trust such that she approaches the resistance board run by Doctor Novotny (Miller). In the meantime careless Paula is caught trying to sabotage some of the artillery shells by another Nazi officer right while Tartu is nearby. Quick on his feet Tartu decides to go straight to the plant’s manager with a cover story that he’d been making friends with some of the Czech’s to infiltrate their resistance. This leaves him free and clear but another in the resistance hears this “confession” and tells it to Novotny who now along with Maruschuka suspects Tartu really is a Nazi. So Maruschuka who’d begun to fall in love with Tartu (beware the woman scorned!) decides to use Vogel to kill Tartu who’s now frustrated that he can’t make contact with the resistance at the very time that he’s gotten reassigned to the secret chemical plant.
I don’t want to spoil what happens next but it’s cleverly done and naturally works out for the best. Plus just when you think the story’s over there’s another few minutes of drama involving an escape.