H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – The Prize

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Brady is concerned to hear about the fate of the Russian writer Tania Roskov (Mia Zetterling).  Due to attend a prize-ceremony in the West, at the last minute she was intercepted at the border by the cruel Commisar Gunzi (Anton Diffring).  Brady sets off to rescue her, but it won’t be easy – first he’ll need to cross a minefield, but even if he gets that far then his problems will be far from over ….

The Prize is another Invisible Man Iron Curtain tale.  As before, everything is seen in stark black and white – West equals good and just whilst East stands for oppression and persecution.  Quite why the state should act in such a draconian fashion towards Tania isn’t too clear – handled differently, her prize could have been a propaganda coup for them.

That Brady’s only too keen to risk his life for her is also a part of the story that’s rather undeveloped.  Had he been quaffing too much champagne prior to the awards ceremony?  If not, it’s hard to see why he’s prepared to go to such lengths (especially since they’ve never actually met).

From Ingmar Bergman’s dark 1944 film Torment to the lighter fare of 1962’s Only Two Can Play (appearing opposite Peter Sellers), Mai Zetterling had a pretty varied career.   She’s suitably winsome and determined as Tania, a woman of conviction who isn’t prepared to renounce her writings.  Unsurprisingly we never see any pressure, other than verbal, applied to her – although it’s possible to imagine that other forms of persuasion could have happened off-screen.

Gunzi is the sort of role that Anton Diffring could have played in his sleep (a single-minded instrument of state, totally without mercy or humanity).  But although Diffring’s on very familiar ground he’s still an imposing screen presence.  You know that Brady will get the better of Gunzi eventually, but he’s shown to be no pushover to begin with (he successfully manages to lock Brady up).  Round one to Gunzi then.  But Brady manages to escape and then locks Gunzi up.  Round two to Brady.

Tania isn’t the only dissident held by Gunzi, but she’s the only one that Brady’s interested in.  A pity that all the others are left to suffer their fates, but presumably they weren’t as pretty as Tania ….

The Prize is an efficient runaround with plenty of guards and guns.    It’s not a terribly deep story – the political angle is quite slight and neither of the main characters (Tania and Gunzi) ever feel like real, three-dimensional characters – but as so often with this series it’s breezy enough fare.

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