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Man on a String

Man on a String(1960)

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The "Central Bureau of Intelligence," a network formed to consolidate activities of several American spy agencies, learns that one of their agents, who was close to infiltrating the Kremlin, has been thrown off a train in Switzerland and killed. At CBI headquarters in Washington, Inspector Jenkins tells agent Frank Sanford that the director wants them now to enlist Boris Mitrov, a well-known Russian-born American musician and Hollywood producer, who has been secretly conspiring with the Soviet Union. For more than eighteen months, the Bureau has been watching Boris, his Russian contact, Col. Vladimir "Vadja" Kubelov, who is the ranking KGB officer in Washington, and an American multi-millionaire banker and his wife, Adrian and Helen Benson, both of whom are Communists. While a squad of agents spy upon Boris' luxurious Beverly Hills home, Boris brings home his elderly father, a dissident who has just been released from Russia. Vadja interrupts the reunion when he brings papers for Boris to sign that will give Adrian control of Boris' film studio. Boris had agreed to this in order to get his father out of Russia, and Vadja now tells him that the fate of his brothers, still in Russia, will depend upon his future work. Sometime later, Boris is visited by Frank and Inspector Jenkins, who bring proof that Boris is working for Russian intelligence. Ashamed, Boris explains that he began a friendship with Vadja ten years earlier, unaware that Vadja was a Soviet spy. Boris denies taking money, but admits to accepting gifts for acting as a liaison between Communist agents and acquaintances in the U.S., and allowing his business to be used as a cover-up for espionage. Boris' father, having overheard the conversation, berates his son for betraying his adopted country, and reveals that Boris' brothers have been killed by the Soviets. After Boris agrees to help the Bureau, they send him to Berlin, ostensibly to make documentary films for the U.S. government. When Boris learns that his close friend and assistant, Robert Avery, will be the special agent assigned to accompany him, Boris, who was unaware that Robert was watching him for the CBI, feels betrayed. Later, though, after Robert conveys his sympathy for Boris' situation, Boris thanks him. When Vadja tells Helen, with whom he is having an affair, that the Russian embassy has recalled him, she implores him to take her with him to Moscow. She returns reluctantly, however, to Adrian, who has discovered that their home and studio are bugged, and they quickly leave for Mexico, hoping to be granted political asylum there. In a Berlin nightclub, Boris meets Rosnova, an attractive female agent, who takes him to testify at a trial in East Berlin, at which Otto Bergman, a concentration camp survivor who works at Boris' studio, is being accused of crimes against East Germany. To protect his own espionage work, Boris reluctantly testifies against Otto. After the Bureau supplies Boris with innocuous information to give to Vadja, he is invited to Moscow. Robert gives him a cigarette lighter containing an electric pistol that shoots tiny cyanide bullets to protect himself, and they decide that the code word "Cinerama" will signal that he is in danger. In Moscow, General Nikolai Chapayev, director of the KGB, tells Boris that he is considering putting him in charge of several new American espionage units. At Moscow University, Boris attends a class for students who plan to infiltrate communities in America and other countries posing as citizens. Meanwhile, the Bensons arrive in Berlin, where Helen tells Robert of her husband's plan to destroy Vadja by denouncing Boris as a counterspy. Robert then sends Boris a telegram that he must return to West Berlin for an important Cinerama conference. The next day, as Boris lands at the East Berlin airport, Chapayev learns of Adrian's suspicions and orders checkpoints to West Berlin closed. After Boris uses the lighter to shoot a police officer who has handcuffed him, he escapes to West Berlin. At his hotel, Robert instructs him to repeat everything he has learned in Moscow, as their conversation is being recorded. Boris recalls the code names and descriptions of the agents who have been sent to various parts of the U.S., just as a sniper fires through Boris' window and two KGB agents kick in the door. After Robert shoots one of the agents, the other, Hans Gruenwald, wounds him. Boris then struggles with Gruenwald, knocking him unconscious with the handcuffs. Boris' information leads to arrests of the new Russian agents at the Los Angeles airport, after which he is awarded a special commendation by Congress for his services.