The Spy’s Wife (1971)

UK / 27 minutes / color / Eyeline, Scotia–Barber Dir: Gerry O’Hara Pr: Julian Holloway Scr: Julian Holloway, Gerry O’Hara Cine: Dudley Lovell Cast: Dorothy Tutin, Tom Bell, Ann Lynn, Vladek Sheybal, Freda Bamford, Glenna Forster Jones, Janet Waldron, Charmian Clarke, Julian Holloway, Bunny May, Shaun Curry, Edward Kemp.

An odd little comedy on the themes of subterfuge, betrayal and—peripherally—espionage.

Tom Tyler (Bell) is a London-based British spy whose cover for his frequent travels is that he’s a toy salesman. His wife Hilda (Tutin) is nosy about his activities, sussing out that his imminent trip is likely to Prague.

Vladek Sheybal as Vladek.

As soon as he’s off to the airport, her fancy man arrives: Vladek (Sheybal), part of some Eastern European embassy’s diplomatic corps. Before the pair can get to grips, so to speak, they must search the apartment for bugs; then a supposed colleague of Tom’s, Harrison (Holloway), calls by; and after that Hilda’s mum (Bamford) appears and wants to visit for a few hours . . .

Tom Bell as Tom.

As the pre-coital couple struggle with such adversities, Tom, meanwhile, is not in actuality on his way to Prague. Instead, he’s trysting in London with his married mistress, Grace (Lynn). But there’s a problem he never thought of . . .

Dorothy Tutin as Karen.

In a sense, this is just another light and fluffy bedroom farce, showing initially as the kind of B-featurette you’d have forgotten by the time you’d bought your popcorn and fizz preparatory to the main movie. Where it falls down, though, is in the “light and fluffy” department. The opening scene, featuring banter between Tom and Hilda, is ponderously overlong: five minutes may not seem like any great duration on paper but, believe me, it feels like it when nothing interesting is going on—and, besides, five minutes is a healthy portion of this short movie’s running time. Again, the conversation that Harrison has with Hilda through the chained aperture of her apartment door goes nowhere, is never followed up and has no humor, so that we’re left wondering why in heck it was there in the first place. While Hilda is making a quick dash outside she has an odd little encounter with an acquaintance, Elaine (Waldron), that seems to suggest Hilda’s not quite who she seems—Elaine believes she’s called not Hilda but “Karen, from the embassy”—but again there’s no follow up to this. (And anyway we already know Hilda’s mum is pretty convinced Hilda is Hilda.)

Ann Lynn as Grace.

There’s a twist at the end that gives this moderately entertaining movie a little bit of bite, but not enough to break the skin. Still, it’s fun to see players like Lynn, Bamford, Sheybal, Bell and especially Tutin at work.

Freda Bamford as Hilda’s mum.

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