The Spies

There's a shock in every corridor in this espionage thriller about a dilapidated psychiatric clinic whose head shrink Malic (Gérard Séty) consents to hide a spy, simply named Alex (Curt Jürgens), in the failing facility. Only two other patients, a drug addict, and a mute hysteric (Véra Clouzot), reside in the sanitarium, but soon bedlam is loosed as all manner of agents infiltrate the grounds, including a Lithuanian klepto (Peter Ustinov), and a Shakespeare-spouting operative played by Sam Jaffe. Identities shift, loyalties lapse, and Dr. Malic finds himself at the center of a Cold War conspiracy in which atomic secrets may be at stake. Clouzot leaves little room for recovery as the paranoia spirals out of control and, as film historian Jacques Siclier remarked, "every door opens onto another cell.” The Spies swings, bipolar-like, between absurdist comedy and brute Cold War menace as though the howl and the horror were conjoined expressions of the time.

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