Thursday, November 13, 2008


Warner Brothers released its second spy & saboteur "B" movie, "Secret Enemies" (** out of ****) on August 18, 1942. Essentially, the studio commissioned scenarist Raymond L. Schrock to rewrite Seton I. Miller's script for the seminal 1935 James Cagney thriller G-Man about how FBI obtained the right to arm themselves against trigger-happy hoodlums. Unlike G-Men, however, "Secret Enemies" is about a federal law enforcement agency called the Bureau of Investigation, obviously a veiled reference to J. Edgar Hoover's crime-stoppers.

The day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a New York City motel owner of German ancestry, Henry Bremmer, worries about his wife. Apparently, Mrs. Bremmer has been sick and is in Germany. Bremmer fears that the Nazis will put his wife in a concentration camp, so implores his long-time friend and attorney Carl Becker (Craig Stevens) help him get her out of Germany before Hitler declares war. Becker flies to Washington, D.C., queries the State Department and talks to the German Embassy, but he gets nowhere. Meanwhile, Bremmer's chauffeur Fred informs his boss that he knows a man with influence. Desperately, Bremmer appeals to Dr. Woodford (Robert Warwick), alias Otto Zimmer, a notorious Nazi spy on the B.O.I.'s list of wanted men, to help him get his wife safely back to America. Zimmer strikes a bargain with Bremmer. He will get Bremmer's wife out of Germany in exchange for Bremmer letting Zimmer's spy ring headquarter themselves in Bremmer's motel. Later, Becker meets his old friend Jim Jackson (Charles Lang), who stops off at Becker's office and mentions in passing that he is on a spy manhunt with a B.O.I agent and that they are staying in a nearby Washington motel. Becker convinces Jackson to move into Bremmer's motel, so he can join later in the evening and he can meet Becker's girlfriend. The Nazi agent put Jackson into a room with its windows nailed shut and give him a special battery operated radio to listen to music during a practice blackout drill later in the evening. Jackson switches on the radio and the mechanism cracks a vial of deadly but odorless gas hidden in the radio. Jackson dies and Zimmer and his henchmen arrange Jackson body so that the coroner will rule his death a suicide. Carl Becker refuses to believe that his friend committed suicide. Jackson's partner John Trent (John Ridgely) suspects that Becker is in cahoots with the Nazi spies.

Meanwhile, Becker contacts several authorities, but he gets nowhere. After speaking with a Bureau representative, a frustrated Becker decides to join the Bureau, something that Jackson had been pushing him to do. Initially, Trent does not trust Becker, but he changes his mind as he teachers the former attorney the ropes of being a Bureau agent. When another Bureau agent dies under mysterious circumstances, the agency dispatches Trent and the agent of his choice to investigate the death. Trent chooses Becker. Eventually, Becker learns that the Nazis have been blackmailing Bremmer. The Bureau arrests Zimmer, but later his henchman and he escape from their escort on the train. The German fifth columnists take refuge in the mountains at a cabin owned by Bremmer. Before Bremmer leaves against will to accompany the Nazis, he throws a photo of his hunting lodge on his bed. When Becker and Trent search Bremmer's bedroom, they find the photo and put two plus two together. The Bureau surrounds the lodge and shoots it out with the spies. While the Bureau agents are exchanging gunfire with the spies, Bremmer dies in a back room where he keeps a short-wave radio. Before he dies, he manages to contact the authorities about a U-boat off the Eastern coast and the Navy sinks the submarine. Again, the agile Zimmer escapes and take refuge with Paula Fengler, an attractive nightclub singer that Becker has been dating. Carl guns Zimmer down at Paula's room, and then he takes her into custody for being a member of the spy ring. Altogether, "Secret Enemies" is nothing compared with "G-Men, but it made for an interesting, fast-paced but ultimately disposable wartime thriller.

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