The Counterfeit Traitor

The Counterfeit Traitor (1961)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: William Holden, Lilli Palmer

In their line of low-priced classic releases, Paramount has now also released ’The Counterfeit Traitor,’ a captivating spy thriller from 1961. Shot entirely in Europe using a European cast and original locations, the film perfectly manages to capture the look and feel of era as well as of war-torn Europe. The only thing a bit dubious about the production is the question why German soldiers talk to each other in English… but hey, that’s nitpicking.

Unwillingly turned into a spy for the Allied Forces during World War II, a Swedish businessman is providing the Allieds with vital information from his trips to Germany. But being continually blackmailed by British agents he is placed in the undercover action deeper and deeper with every trip he takes. When he witnesses first-handedly how brutal the Germans rule their country and when he falls in love with Marianne, a fellow spy, the stakes are getting even higher and he becomes convinced he is doing the right thing. If only he can survive…

Paramount Home Entertainment presents the movie in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio in a transfer that is enhanced for 16×9 TV sets. Sadly the print is in pretty bad shape and as such the DVD presentation suffers seriously. There are scratches in the print and worst of all, registration problems throughout. The three color film strips that make up the Technicolor process are not properly aligned in countless scenes, creating an image that is out of focus with bleeding colors on countless occasions. Most definitely this film needs a proper restorative effort.

The audio is a remixed 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track – complemented by the original mono track. It has been cleaned up and is free of pops or hiss. The frequency has been adjust a bit to give it a more natural sounding quality and the surrounds have been engaged occasionally for a wider sound field.

At $14.95 it is hard to complain, but I wish Paramount would have tried to create a proper transfer for the film nonetheless that corrects the countless problems inherent in the picture. Maybe next time they’ll get it right. If the picture quality doesn’t discourage you, you’re getting to see a taught thriller based on a real story that is filled with twists and wonderful performances by William Holden and Lilli Palmer.