The Man Between

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The Man Between
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Carol Reed
Screenplay by Harry Kurnitz
Based on Eric Linklater
(based on an original story by)
Produced by Carol Reed [1]
Starring James Mason
Claire Bloom
Hildegard Knef
Cinematography Desmond Dickinson
Edited by Bert Bates
Music by John Addison
Color process Black and white
London Films Productions
British Lion Films
Distributed by British Lion Films
United Artists
Release date
  • 2 November 1953 (1953-11-02)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office£139,491 (UK) [2]

The Man Between (also known as Berlin Story) is a 1953 British thriller film directed by Carol Reed and starring James Mason, Claire Bloom and Hildegard Knef. The screenplay concerns a British woman on a visit to post-war Berlin, who is caught up in an espionage ring smuggling secrets into and out of the Eastern Bloc. [3]



Susanne Mallison (Claire Bloom) arrives at Tempelhof Airport to the post-war West Berlin, at that point still generally open to the people of East Berlin before the construction of the Berlin Wall. She looks around the war-ravaged city with her sister-in-law Bettina, including the ruins of the Reichstag. After a night in a nightclub they plan to visit the eastern sector the next day. Entry is simple, and they show their papers and a barrier lifts to give them entry. The atmosphere is different, with huge posters of Stalin decorating the buildings. There they bump into Ivo Kern (James Mason) in a cafe.

They return to the west sector and Susanne visits Martin, her brother (Bettina's husband), who is on military duties overseeing supplies to the city. Susanne starts dating Ivo. He confesses that he once was in love with Bettina. He arrives to collect her in a VW Beetle and they go skating. The sinister Halendar appears almost each time they meet. Bettina confesses to both Martin and Susanne that she was married to Ivo until 1943.

Martin and a friend plot to kidnap Ivo but he guesses this and sends a boy to leave a sign in the snow that he is not coming. Susanne goes out in the snow and is bundled into a car. Ivo argues with Hallendar saying he has kidnapped the wrong woman.

Ivo is a former lawyer who has participated in Nazi atrocities and is now selling his expertise to East Germans to kidnap and transport certain West Germans to the Eastern bloc. Although Ivo desires to relocate to the West, he is hampered by West German suspicions and his criminal past. Nevertheless, he agrees to a final kidnapping venture that fails, forcing his employer to take over and abduct Briton Susanne by mistake. Ivo had earlier feigned a romance with Susanne as a means to seize his kidnapping target.

The abduction of Susanne presents Ivo with an opportunity to both return the unfortunate victim to the West and impress Western authorities with his atonement. Despite Ivo's selfish and dark facade, Susanne falls in love with him. She tells him that she can see humanity deep inside a man who had once wished to defend the innocent and the 'rights of man'. This glimpse also appears to a young East Berlin boy who assists Ivo and Susanne in their attempt to escape, as he follows Ivo everywhere and the boy is treated with kindness. Ivo almost admits his affection for Susanne on one occasion but he directs the conversation back to his sordid past and the escape attempt.

Ivo and Susanne narrowly avoid capture and wander through the ruins of East Berlin. They try to board a train at Friedrichstrasse but there are too many ID checks. They sabotage a generator to kill the lights to cross a large building site. The message boy (Horst) appears on the east side (it is not explained how he crosses the border). Ivo persuades a woman to give them her flat for the night. They kiss for the first time and it is implied they sleep together. The boy comes to the flat with a laundry lorry driven by Kastner. They hide in the back as it drives to the crossing point. They hold each other.

Ultimately, as Ivo and Susanne are only a few feet from the Brandenburg Gate, hidden in the back of a truck, the truck breaks down. Kastner gets it restarted but not before drawing attention to the lorry, as during his attempts to restart the truck, the capped boy circles on his bike in no-mans-land and has been noticed by one of the border guards; it is he who has unwittingly betrayed them by his presence. Ivo jumps out of the back and is chased by the border guards as he runs from the vehicle. As the truck crosses the neutral zone Ivo tries to reach the back and she reaches back for his hand, but he is gunned down by the guards, having sacrificed his life to help Susanne escape.



The movie was filmed on location in Berlin, at the Shepperton Studios in England and at Richmond Ice Rink.


James Mason won the best actor award from the National Board of Review.

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote: "It must be said, without reflection, that the credit for whatever there is in the way of exciting melodrama in this primarily atmospheric film goes to Mr. Reed for his direction of the actors and camera. For it is the attitudes of his people, the moods of the city in various scenes and the cleverness of the assembly, rather than the sharpness of the story told, that account for the modest distinction on the quality level of The Man Between." [4]

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  1. "Alexander Korda Screen Credits". -B.F.I. Accessed 2016-01-10
  2. Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p499
  3. "The Man Between (1953)". Archived from the original on 28 November 2007.
  4. "TWO NEWCOMES ARE SHOWN; James Mason and Claire Bloom Face Danger in Berlin in 'The Man Between' Appointment in Honduras' Is Tale of Jungle Chase Starring Glenn Ford, Ann Sheridan".