This taut film noir when compared to Carol Reed's masterpieces of that genre, Odd Man Out and The Third Man, is a flawed gem, but still that - a gem.
Filmed in Berlin just eight years after WWII ended, and eight years before the Wall went up, it stars James Mason and Claire Bloom as star-crossed lovers in a city still digging itself out of the rubble made by Allied bombs, and still taking refugees from the east of Europe. The story tells of Susanne Mallison, a young Englishwoman who has arrived in Berlin to visit her older brother Martin, an army physician in the British sector of the city, and his German wife Bettina. It is while Susanne and Bettina are spending a day in the eastern sector, that Bettina finds herself reluctantly introducing Susanne to an old friend, the suave and handsome Ivo Kern. Susanne doesn't like Ivo at first -the audience isn't supposed to either - and she immediately becomes suspicious that he and Bettina are having a clandestine affair. She is curious though about the man, but will she learn the truth about Ivo and his mysterious background?
Meanwhile off the set of the film there was more going on behind the scenes between the two stars. From the book 'James Mason - A Personal Biography', by Mason's former sister-in-law and life long friend, Diana de Rosso: "I was to observe another side of his character, rarely disclosed, when he came to London to finish filming The Man Between. He was a frequent visitor to our London home and he began to bring with him increasingly, his ethereally lovely co-star Claire Bloom...He showed a marked interest in the young actress. There was a quality about her, a stillness and tranquillity which set her apart from most artists her age, yet she had a pointed wit and a fine intelligence, virtues which appealed to James - and it was quite apparent that he was in danger of losing his heart. In truth I believe his heart was lost...His attachment to Claire was purely romantic. They used to sit on the floor together in our house, hand in hand, plainly adoring each other..."
But as with Ivo and Susanne, it was the same with James and Claire. Mason did not divorce his estranged wife Pamela Kellino, and de Rosso was surprised that he didn't, but she has some theories. When he finally did get his divorce a few years later, Claire had moved on to other things in her career and private life. Still, when they met again several years later, it was clear that Mason still was very fond of her and she likewise.
When I first saw this film I questioned whether Mason's German accent was very good, but when I lent it to a pair of friends who are German, they said that he did a good job. As for the German supporting cast, it is the best, especially the lovely Hildegard Neff, and the hauntingly beautiful musical score catches the bleak feeling of the city during a cold winter. They are also reasons I list this as one of my favourite film noir productions.