Based on a story by Harold Greene, Hide and Seek is the kind of film perfected by Alfred Hitchcock five years earlier with North By Northwest, where a middle-class sap would end up getting involved in some sort of espionage plot, fall in love with a femme fatale (who kind of gets him into trouble in the first place and then reluctantly falls in love with him), end up being chased around by smartly dressed villains and finally get the better of them during the final act. But instead of ultra suave Cary Grant we have the less charismatic Ian Carmichael; and instead of sultry Eva Marie Saint we have the cute, but forgettable Janet Munro; and instead of ubër smart and debonair James Mason, as chief bad-guy, we have the rather stoic Curt Jurgens, who later went on to play a Bond villain in The Spy who Loved Me.
Carmichael plays Professor David Garret who runs into an old friend from behind the ‘iron curtain’ at a chess tournament in London. Garret, a professor of Astro Physics from Cambridge, ends up with his friend’s chess set, inside which is a large pile of cash. Determined to return it to his friend he heads over to where his friend had been staying. It’s there that he meets up with Munro at a funky party. She claims she knows where his friend, Dr Ritcher, is, and tells him that she will be going to join him later that night. Our bumbling academic reluctantly agrees to join her on the train up to Yorkshire. Enroute to Flanborough Head they are menaced by what appear to be secret police so they pull the emergency cord and jump off the train.
After slogging it through the English countryside, in the middle of the night, they end up hooking up with a rather carefree boatman, Wilkins, on a canal, who gives them shelter and transport up to near where they need to go. He’s very bohemian and comes up with homilies like: ‘Happiness is the only true coin’. It’s while on the canal trip that our seemingly mismatched travelling companions start to fall for each other, and there’s even a little awkward chemistry between the two leads.
Once they hit the road Maggie tries to dissuade the professor from going further and also points him in the wrong direction, but the two are soon picked up by one of the goons who Garret had been chased by previously when in London. ‘Sunglasses man’ takes them up to a cliff top and appears to be readying himself to kill them. Garret takes action and quite a cool fight ensues…
Well, suffice to say our hero lives to see another day and finally gets to meet the mastermind behind all of his recent misadventures, namely Hubert Marek (Jurgens). It soon becomes quite apparent that all is not quite what it seems and Garret has to use his brains to save the day.
Hide and Seek is a nicely shot cold war thriller, from the days when spies all wore trench coats, dark gloves and even darker glasses, and spoke in either Russian or hushed riddlesome tones. Carmichael plays the smart, but naïve academic well and Munro is likeable enough eye-candy. There are some reasonable action sequences, although this is more of a comedy thriller than an action film. There’s an amusing sequence set on the train involving an old chap trying to get to the loo and some of the dialogue is fun too, for example: Maggie: ‘We could be killed…’ David: ‘Not on British Rail!’
Hide and Seek seems to be trying to be the new (for its time) The 39 Steps, and partly succeeds until the rather contrived ending, which partly dismantles all the good work that’s gone before. While the writer probably thought he was being clever with some of the twists, it sadly comes across as being a bit desperate and unrealistic, and for me, at least, the ending was a bit of a disappointment. Having said that Hide and Seek is still an enjoyable film to watch and Network have done a good job restoring it as the picture quality is excellent and the sound is good too.
Verdict: Definitely worth a look…
Reviewer: Justin Richards
Hide and Seek has recently been released on DVD and is being distributed by Network Distributing who are currently releasing lots of these rarer British film titles, many of which are pretty decent.
Extras consist of a sizable gallery of posters, lobby cards, postcards and photos from the film or of the cast, plus images from a showman’s manual.