Cast & Crew
Harold S. Bucquet
In 1940, demolition expert Captain Terrence Stevenson, an Englishman born in Romania and educated in Germany, is summoned to the Foreign Office. Because Stevenson knows both Romanian and German fluently, he is asked to go on a mission disguised as Romanian chemical engineer Jan Tartu and destroy a poison gas factory in Czechoslovakia. After parachuting into Romania, "Tartu," dressed as a dandy and assuming the air of a gigolo, travels toward Czechoslovakia, pretending to be sympathetic to Germany and wanted by the Romanian people because of it. Arriving in Czechoslavakia, Tartu stops at the shop of his contact, a shoemaker. Before putting Tartu in touch with the underground, the shoemaker is arrested in a Gestapo raid, but Tartu escapes. Wearing a German uniform, Tartu then goes to work at a war materiel plant and is told to keep his eyes open for Czechs who try to stop production. At his hotel, he encounters Marúschka Brunn, a formerly wealthy Czech who fraternizes with the Germans and flaunts her distaste of her own people. One day, a woman is shot for sabotage at the plant and landlady Anna Palacek's daughter Pavla, who works at the plant, arrives at home very upset. When German officers arrive to investigate the death of a fellow officer, Tartu gives her an alibi and hides a gun for her. Pavla and Anna now say that they will do anyting for him and he reveals that he must contact the underground to fulfill a secret mission. A short time later, Marúschka asks to see him and he invites her for dinner at a nightclub. They begin to realize their mutual attraction, and, as he gets to know Marúschka, Tartu deduces that she is really anti-Nazi. In the restaurant's garden, each decides to take a chance on the other. She tells him that she works with Pavla in the underground and will put him in touch with her compatriots. The next day, Pavla is caught in an act of sabotage. Because the Gestapo know that Tartu has seen it, Pavla secretly implores him to save himself and give her away. To fulfill his mission, Tartu does so, and she is shot. Meanwhile, Marúschka goes to the underground council and tells them about Tartu, but when they inform her about what happened to the shoemaker and Pavla, she concludes that he is really a Nazi. They then order her to "eliminate" him. After talking with Anna, Marúschka decides that "one Nazi should get rid of the other." She goes to Inspector Otto Heidrich, a Nazi admirer staying at the hotel, and convinces him that Tartu is a spy. She asks Otto not to call the Gestapo, but to take care of Tartu himself to further his career. They plot to kill Tartu that evening, and she arranges to meet Tartu on the nightclub's terrace. She tells Tartu that she is not a member of the underground, and, as he relates that he is being transferred the next day, Otto prepares to kill him. Just then, however, all officers are ordered to review everyone's papers, and when a young man is killed escaping, Otto's plan is interrupted. In the morning, Tartu reports to the poison gas works and is told that he must memorize the gas's secret formula quickly because the gas will be shipped in two weeks. That night, he goes to a bar and, pretending to be roaring drunk, boasts of his knowledge of the underground. When he leaves, members of the underground follow him, knock him out and take him away. When he comes to, he tries to convince them that he is a British agent, even when they say that they are actually the Gestapo. After they realize that Tartu is telling the truth, they offer to help him sabotage the poison gas bombs. To do this, they create very powerful but tiny bombs that Tartu can smuggle into the plant. Next morning, Otto confirms to Marúschka his findings that Tartu is not a Nazi. Now concerned for Tartu's safety, she starts to flirt with Otto and suggest that he delay calling in the Gestapo to keep the credit for exposing Tartu for himself, then knocks him unconscious. With Anna's help, she quickly leaves after realizing that Otto is dead and goes to the gas works and asks to speak with Tartu, coyly pretending to be his girl friend. She warns Tartu, but he says he cannot leave and tells her to inform the underground that he is planting the bombs right away. As he furiously places the bombs, there is an announcement on the loud speaker that exposes him as a spy. After a desperate chase, he is finally able to escape just before the gas works is sealed off and is picked up by the underground as the explosions begin. Because Marúschka has now become a liability, the underground decides to send her away, and she happily escapes with Tartu in a stolen Nazi airplane.
Harold S. Bucquet
Mabel Terry Lewis
Sabotage Agent (aka The Adventures of Tartu) - Sabotage Agent
Donat, the son of a Polish father and British mother, was a leading actor of British stage and films. Talented, dashing and handsome, Donat had attracted international attention in 1933's The Private Life of Henry VIII, and several American film studios wanted to sign him to a contract. But Donat had no interest in Hollywood stardom, and preferred to work in Britain. Finally, in 1938, Donat agreed to a six-picture deal with MGM, on the condition that the films be made in England. That was fine with the studio. In response to a U.K. quota imposed on the exhibition of foreign films, MGM had recently set up a production unit in England, planning to use the studio's production talent and British actors.
Donat's first MGM film, The Citadel (1938), earned him excellent reviews. The second, Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939), won him a best actor Oscar. Then came the war, and MGM wanted Donat to go to Hollywood. But he again refused to leave Britain, rejected script after script, and became embroiled in lawsuits with MGM over his contract. They eventually settled the litigation with two more films, the first of which was Sabotage Agent.
Sabotage Agent is hardly the prestige vehicle that Donat's two previous MGM films had been. But even critics who found the plot the somewhat contrived and confusing were charmed by Donat's witty performance. "That it is fun despite the looseness with which it stacks its cards is due largely to the gusto that Mr. Donat brings to the film," said the New York Times. "Mr. Donat seems to be having the time of his life." Critics also praised the performances of the elegant leading lady, Valerie Hobson, and a very young Glynis Johns as a Czech patriot.
Director: Harold S. Bucquet
Producer: Irving Asher
Screenplay: John Lee Mahin, Howard Emmett Rogers; story by John C. Higgins
Editor: Douglas Myers
Cinematography: John J. Cox
Art Direction: John Bryan
Music: Hubert Bath
Cast: Robert Donat (Capt. Terence Stevenson, AKA Jan Tartu), Valerie Hobson (Marushka Lanova), Walter Rilla (Inspector Otto Vogel), Glynis Johns (Paula Palacek), Phyllis Morris (Anna Palacek), Martin Miller (Dr. Novotny)
By Margarita Landazuri
Sabotage Agent (aka The Adventures of Tartu) - Sabotage Agent
The working title of the film was Sabotage Agent, and some sources reviewed it under the title Tartu. Although the film is listed in Hollywood Reporter production charts as being shot from late September to mid-October 1943, the SAB form on the film, contained in an AMPAS Library file, indicates that the film was completed on January 10, 1943, and a modern source indicates that it was shot in July and August 1942. As the film was reviewed in Variety on August 4, 1943, it would seem unlikely that the Hollywood Reporter production chart dates are accurate. The film was released in England in late 1943 under the original working title, Sabotage Agent. That version of the film was five minutes longer than the American release and included one additional scene. The scene, which occurred just after the character "Tartu" is given his assignment, takes place in his mother's house, which has just sustained bomb damage.