VCI Home Video // 1950 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // September 7th, 2012
"We're going to look awfully silly with bullets in our backs."
"If we fail, it won't matter how we look."
A helpful tip for aspiring amateur agents: Take in enough spy stories to spit them back under truth serum; the Eastern European secret police will decide you've just listened to too much radio (at least it worked in 1950).
If the truth serum works well enough, the secret police might accidentally hypnotize you into believing that you are a radio secret agent. It works for Frances Gray (Margaret Lockwood, The Lady Vanishes), who has been sent behind the Iron Curtain to capture some possibly deadly fruit flies for England in Highly Dangerous. While under the drug's influence, the regular listener to Frank Conway, Secret Agent believes she's Frances Conway, becoming fearless and noble and all that.
Highly Dangerous and Frank Conway seem to be parodying Dick Barton, Secret Agent, a then-popular BBC radio serial. Lockwood's Gray seems well in keeping with many a plucky English heroine, dating back at least to the likes of Tuppence Beresford, and she's not so far removed from current TV heroines like Amy Pond or Annie Walker. It's penned by novelist Eric Ambler (Topkapi), so it's got solid dialogue, even with its silly plot.
Gray is an entymologist who excitedly relates Conway's radio adventures to her young nephew, adding scientific explanations to the unscientific proceedings. She'd rather be in Torquay, but she's doing her part to save lives.
Of course, Lockwood has a man helping her out -- or at least following her around, trying to catch his breath -- in the person of Bill Casey (Dane Clark, God Is My Co-Pilot), an wisecracking American correspondent who has the dubious fortune of recognizing her in a restaurant. When she finds out that he even likes fruit flies (at least the non-poisonous ones), it's love. Add a secret police chief (Marius Goring, The Red Shoes) who has a knack for popping up everywhere, and you've got a B-movie.
The vaguely Eastern European setting is created (not too convincingly) with sets, stock footage, and process shots, for a look much like The Saint or The Baron on TV (director Roy Baker's credits include both of those series, plus The Avengers), in black-and-white. Presented in standard definition 1.37:1 full screen, there's occasional flickering in the picture, but it mostly holds up well; as does the Dolby 2.0 Stereo track. The only extra is a photo gallery.
Highly Dangerous is formula fluff, but you'll easily get into the spirit of the adventure, even without truth serum. It's not a must-see, but if you spot it at a bargain, go for it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: VCI Home Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1950
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Gallery