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https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/the_snazzy_tartu.jpg
Tartu in his gaudy outfit.
The Adventures of Tartu a.k.a. Sabotage Agent (1943) is a British spy thriller starring Robert Donat, Valerie Hobson, and Glynis Johns, directed by Harold S. Bucquet.
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The Blitz blazes on in England, but Captain Terence Stevenson (Donat), has been reassigned: he must become a saboteur and destroy a gas plant in occupied Czechoslovakia. Disguised as the recently deceased Jan Tartu (a Romanian of the Iron Guard), Terence finds his mission doubly difficult given that his contact to the underground was killed.

Sent to a boarding house where the owner and her daughter, Paula (Johns), a Nazi officer called Otto, and the beautiful, yet haughty Marushuka (Hobson) live, he tries his best to keep up appearances as a Nazi working in a munitions factory while also trying to find his fellow conspirators.

Having never been renewed for copyright, this film is in the public domain.


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This film has examples of:

  • The Casanova: How Terence plays Tartu: he’s a complete flirt and cad whenever a beautiful woman is around. It plays well into his image as a Funny Foreigner, too.
  • Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story: Averted: Terence’s Tartu cover story is shaky at best since anyone who decides to call the German official whose signature is forged might very well find out he’s an imposter. Although it almost happens when he enters Czechoslovakia, his friends tap into the telephone line and stop him from being discovered. However, he’s not quite so lucky when Otto catches on.
  • The Dandy: Tartu cares seriously for his impeccable moustache, his pompadour, and his snazzy striped suit.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Otto is completely twirled around Marushuka’s little finger.
  • False Friend: Marushuka believes Tartu to be this for a couple of reasons: he saves Paula from being caught by the Gestapo when she kills an officer, but rats her out when she tries to tamper the munitions; he knows German well; and the first man he meets who’s part of the underground is promptly killed. As it turns out, Tartu had to give up Paula or else his cover would be blown, and the other event was a case of bad luck.
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  • Femme Fatale Spy: As part of La Résistance, Marushuka seduces and gets information out of German officers while pretending to be a complete nightmare to Paula and her mother. Tartu sees through this façade fairly quickly.
  • Funny Foreigner: Terence plays this Up to Eleven as Tartu, making him seem dumber than he really is.
  • Government in Exile: Czechoslovakia while occupied by the Nazis.
  • The Infiltration: Terence’s mission is to find the underground who will supply him with the necessary equipment to sabotage the German gas plant.
  • Impersonation Gambit: Terence pretends to be the Romanian Tartu. It helps that Terence was born in Romania, knows the language, and can be extremely charming.
  • La Résistance: Terence is desperately trying to contact the underground, but his cover identity as Tartu is so good that they’re almost positive that he’s a German officer trying to infiltrate the underground by being suspiciously friendly.
  • Mirror Monologue: Terence practices his Tartu mannerisms in the mirror before heading to Czechoslovakia.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Marushuka realizes that Tartu is in fact telling the truth about being a British spy. Made all the worse when Otto verifies that the real Tartu has been dead for six months.
  • Really Gets Around: Marushuka. It’s an ugly part of being the Femme Fatale Spy.
  • Renaissance Man: Terrence speaks fluent Romanian, German (having spent two years there for university), and English. He’s a chemist who can diffuse bombs, and eventually becomes a great spy and saboteur.
  • The Reveal: Marushuka isn’t a haughty, gold digger, but part of La Résistance!
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Beautiful!: Marushuka acts like this as her cover story. Her line is that she wants to recover her former riches and must achieve this by being friendly to the occupiers.
  • Spy Speak: There’s a rather poetic passage that Tartu uses to know he’s talking to his fellow underground conspirators.
  • Tap on the Head: Otto gets knocked out by a statuette before he can give Tartu away, and he doesn’t get up from the blow.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Tartu counts even if he’s a spy. He’s definitely more flamboyant than any of the other Nazis…
  • We Do Not Know Each Other: Marushuka has to pretend that she doesn’t care for the young Paula or her mother, but she loves them both, and is devastated when she finds out about Paula’s execution.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Terence dons an accent and a pimp-looking suit to hide his reserved Britishness and become a flamboyant Romanian. There’s no wig, though.

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