Confessions of a Nazi Spy Gets Warner Archive Blu-ray

Edward G. Robinson and Francis Lederer in Confessions of a Nazi Spy. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

A huge risk at the time of its release, Confessions of a Nazi Spy is now available on Blu-ray through the Warner Archive Collection.

No other studio would show guts like Warner Bros. in the late 1930s. I cannot say this enough. This is certainly something that I discuss almost every time that I write about the studio for its centennial. Germany’s LA consul, George Gyssling, wrote letters in hopes of shutting the film down. Of course, nobody could stop this film from finishing. Not even the threats. Hollywood history is better and stronger because of Confessions of a Nazi Spy. For Warner Bros., it would show that doing the right thing meant more than just box office earnings. Look at how long the other studios would remain in Europe before conditions worsened.

My original 2020 review:

Confessions of a Nazi Spy was seen as a huge risk for Warner Bros. at the time because it dared speak out against Nazi Germany at the time.

When Dr. Karl Kassel (Paul Lukas) makes his way to the United States, his main goal is to persuade German Americans to support the Nazi cause. Kurt Schneider (Francis Lederer), unemployed at the time, ends up joining the cause and becomes a spy. Schneider sends a letter in the mail, which British Military intelligence would intercept.

An FBI agent, Ed Renard (Edward G. Robinson) not only captures the spy but is able to secure his confession. In capturing the confession, the FBI is able to take down other members of the group. They go on by one but sadly, some Nazi sympathizers make their way back to Germany.

Harry and Jack Warner may have had their differences but my cap is off to them for greenlighting the production.  The tipping point certainly came with the murder of their own employee, Joe Kaufman, at the Berlin office. Very few studios took the risk of losing the European market in the late 1930s. Warner Bros. was in the right for making this film because the atrocities in Nazi Germany were getting bad and would only worsen in a matter of months. Harry Warner had seen the evidence of antisemitism taking place in Europe. He was among the few to believe stories of those who escaped Nazi Germany.

The script is based on former FBI agent Leon G. Turrou. He had been assigned to investigate Germans in America.  The end result, of course, would see Warner Bros. taking a strong stand against Germany. No longer would the European country be seen as a friendly country especially with Hitler in power. This didn’t stop people from threatening the studio. Of course, Harry Warner would have some strong remarks at a St. Patrick’s Day dinner in 1939. During this speech, the elder Warner brother decried anyone who glorified a dictatorship. The release would see Harry gets a summons to testify before the U.S. Senate.

The film didn’t do well at the box office. If anything, it is remembered for being an indictment against the Nazis at the time. Unfortunately, I must admit that I didn’t know about the film until reading The Brothers Warner.  While it isn’t a classic on the same level as Casablanca, it also should not be forgotten in history.

Confessions of a Nazi Spy is a film that shows a studio with a conscience and one that uses their platform for the greater good.

Bonus Features

  • Meet the Fleet (Vintage Warner Bros. short)
  • Theatrical Trailer

DIRECTOR:  Anatole Litvak
SCREENWRITERS:  Milton Krims and John Wexley
CAST:   Edward G. Robinson, Francis Lederer, George Sanders, Paul Lukas, Henry O’Neill

Warner Bros. released Confessions of a Nazi Spy in theaters on May 6, 1939. The film is now available on Blu-ray.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.