An Anglo–American team uncovers a nest of spies!
UK / 66 minutes / bw / Ello, Rank Dir: Robert Tronson Pr & Scr: Jim O’Connolly Story: J. Levy, J.P. O’Connolly Cine: Michael Reed, James Bawdon Cast: Patrick Allen, Jacqueline Ellis, James Maxwell, Zena Walker, Ewan Roberts, Harold Goodwin, John Bown, Jeffrey Segal, Anne Padwick, Jack May, Mark Singleton, Sean Lynch, A.J. Brown, Victor Platt, Reed De Rouen, Anton Rodgers, Michael Corcoran, Sheldon Lawrence, Robert Raglan, Fanny Carby, Henry De Bray, Arthur Barclay, Frank Wilson Taylor, Mike Martin.
NATO Security is concerned because, in the wreckage of an air crash in Munich, they’ve discovered a roll of microfilm related to a top-secret nuclear-rocket project based in Woking, England. General Waring (uncredited) of NATO calls in the British Security Service in the shape of its incompetent boss, Colonel Burlinson (Roberts), and his assistant, John Lane (Allen). They agree that Lane should take over the case and they accept Waring’s rider, that his own organization’s Major Ray Ellis (Maxwell) work alongside Lane.
Burlinson (Ewan Roberts, left) and Lane (Patrick Allen) are uneasy colleagues.
Ray Ellis (James Maxwell) fits in well alongside John Lane.
It seems obvious to the two spook-hunters, who bond immediately, that there must be a cell of Soviet spies in operation, including a mole within the project’s Woking HQ. With sidekicks Harry Edwards (the stalwart Goodwin) and Mason (Bown), they soon identify that mole as a scientist called Burton (May), who has recently suffered adversities, taken up drinking, the usual.
Burton (Jack May) is the first suspect.
The quartet follow Burton to where he meets his contact, in a cinema. As Lane watches from a few rows behind, we hear Burton demanding more money from the other man. The contact responds by using the cover of the movie’s soundtrack—it’s obviously a war movie—to shoot Burton through the heart. This is easily the most memorable sequence of The Traitors; it was while watching it that I realized I’d seen the movie before, many moons ago. The killer’s expression of innocent glee as he commits the deed is particularly striking.
Lane (Patrick Allen), Ellis (James Maxwell), Edwards (Harold Goodwin) and Mason (John Bown) on Burton’s trail.
The demise of Burton (Jack May, right) at the hands of the evil Dr. Lindt (Jeffrey Segal).
To Burlinson’s incredulous fury, our heroes, rather than report the murder to the cops, trail the killer to his home, discovering that he is family GP Dr. Paul Joseph Lindt (Segal), a Czech immigrant. His wife Stella (Padwick) is also part of the cell; through following her, our team identify a traitor within the Foreign Office, Charles Henry Venner (Singleton). All that’s left is to find out who is Lindt’s contact with the cell’s Soviet masters.
Venner (Mark Singleton), the mole within the FO.
In a final climactic scene at a public swimming pool, our heroes capture this man, Charles Porter (Lynch). All that’s needed is for Porter to issue the sort of self-parodying defiant proclamation you’d expect in a jingoistic movie like this one, to the effect that the running paper dogs of naked capitalism will soon be gasping their last in the sewer of their own corruption—I forget the precise wording but you get the general idea—and the closing credits can run.
There’s romantic interest, too. Lane and his French wife Annette (Walker) divorced a while back after he spent two years incommunicado in the Congo on Secret Service business. She now lives in Paris. But the owner of Lane’s favorite restaurant, Marcel (uncredited), alongside whom Lane fought for the French Resistance during World War II, knows that the two still love each other truly, madly, deeply, and brings Annette to London in hopes of engineering a rapprochement. At first this works spectacularly well (I laughed aloud in admiration at Allen’s depiction of Lane the morning after), but, with the stresses of the job, can it possibly last . . .?
John (Patrick Allen) and Annette Lane (Zena Walker), reunited . . . for now.
For Ellis’s part, he hooks up with the lovely agent Mary (Ellis), highly valued within the Service for her intelligence and skill, and is well on the way to suggesting itemhood with her when she hints, oh so very discreetly, that he might find it a bit difficult to reconcile himself to some of the amorous obligations she has to incur in the line of duty.
Allen, a stalwart of the UK cinema during this era and a personal favorite of mine ever since childhood, as always manages to look as if he’d be capable of saving the British Empire by chin-power alone. Maxwell was a US actor who spent most of his life in the UK, being noted more for his stage work—especially in association with Manchester’s celebrated theater at the Royal Exchange—than for his work on screen.
Porter (Sean Lynch), the kingpin.
The movie’s problem is that its story lacks anything special to mark it off from any other espionage movie: it’s just a by-the-numbers tale of the rounding up of a cell of Soviet-sympathizing spies. Even the day after watching The Traitors, while I could remember lots of incidentals, settings, scenes, characters, cast members and dialogue exchanges, I had to go seek out an aide memoire before I could recall the actual plot. With most movies, if you want to chat about them with a friend you find yourself saying something like “It’s the one about the . . .” In the case of The Traitors, it would be difficult to do that. Perhaps you might resort to “It’s the one where the guy gets shot in the cinema,” because that’s the standout sequence; on the other hand, it’s not an incident that’s in any way unique to this movie.
Of course, I’d understand entirely if you took a single glance at the poster above and came to a completely different conclusion about The Traitors.