Other Versions of this Movie

The Adventures of Tartu


AKA "Sabotage Agent" A beautiful girl! A dangerous mission! A Brit (Robert Donat) who happens to be fluent in both Rumanian and German -- and a top-notch chemist into the bargain -- is sent behind enemy lines to destroy a poison gas factory. Starts off as a credible spy thriller, with the Nazis really earning audience hatred, then morphs into a James Bond-style fantasia, complete with an enormous secret underground factory and an overdone superweapon. But no hollow volcano. Thoroughly entertaining, but a bit of fluff, even as war propaganda films go.

The Adventures of Tartu (alternate British title and American release title: Sabotage Agent) aka Tartu, is a 1943 British World War II spy film starring Robert Donat.


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British Captain Terence Stevenson (Robert Donat) accepts an assignment even more dangerous than his everyday wartime job of Bomb disposal. Fluent in Romanian language and German and having studied chemical engineering, he is parachuted into Romania to assume the identity of Captain Jan Tartu, a member of the fascist Iron Guard. He makes his way to Czechoslovakia to steal the formula of a new Nazi poison gas and sabotage the factory where it is being manufactured.
However, his contact is arrested before he can arrange for a job in the factory. Tartu is instead assigned work as a foreman at a munitions plant. Among the other occupants of the house in which he resides are his landlady Anna Palacek (Phyllis Morris), her daughter Paula (Glynis Johns), who works in the plant, German Inspector Otto Vogel (Walter Rilla), and lovely Maruschka Lanova (Valerie Hobson), who makes herself popular with the German occupiers, especially Vogel and the local commandant.
Tartu gains Paula's confidence by providing her with an alibi after she shoots a German officer. He asks her help to contact the Czech resistance to Nazi occupation and is surprised to learn that Maruschka is one of them. She in turn contacts Dr. Novotny (Martin Miller), the leader of the local resistance group. Though Maruschka trusts Tartu, Novotny is more cautious.
When Paula is detected attempting to commit sabotage at the factory, she whispers to Tartu to denounce her to deflect suspicion away from him. She is then summarily shot. This, along with the death of Tartu's contact, causes the underground to believe that he is a Nazi agent; Maruschka plots to have a Nazi officer, who has a crush on her, to kill Tartu. Fortunately, Tartu is transferred to the gas plant without their help.
He goes to work for Dr. Willendorf (Percy Walsh), the head of the operation. However, he is dismayed to learn that the first shipment of gas is due to leave the factory the next night. Desperate, he pretends to get drunk in a bar and blurts out that he knows the names of Czech resistance members who will be arrested soon, then staggers out into the dark street. As he had hoped, he is abducted by the underground. With a great deal of effort, he finally convinces them they are on the same side. He manufactures small bombs that, in the right places, are enough to demolish the plant.
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The next day, he goes to work. Though his cover is blown soon afterward, he manages to plant the bombs and escape from the heavily guarded plant, which blows up as he drives off. Then, he, Maruschka, and a pilot steal a German bomber and fly away.


As appearing in The Adventures of Tartu, (main roles and screen credits identified):

  • Robert Donat as Captain Terence Stevenson
  • Valerie Hobson as Maruschka Lanova
  • Walter Rilla as Inspector Otto Vogel
  • Glynis Johns as Paula Palacek
  • Phyllis Morris as Anna Palacek
  • Martin Miller as Dr. Novotny
  • Anthony Eustrel as German Officer
  • Percy Walsh as Dr. Willendorf
  • David Ward as Bronte
  • Mabel Terry-Lewis (credited as Mabel Terry Lewis) as Mrs. Stevenson
  • Frederic Richter as General Weymouth
  • John Penrose (actor) as Lieutenant in gas factory
  • Hubert Leslie as Peter Valek
  • Miki Iveria as Female worker at Skoda
  • Lawrence O'Madden as Col. Perry
  • Josephine Wilson as Nurse
  • Maurice Rhodes as Boy patient


The Adventures of Tartu began life with the working title, Sabotage Agent, while the title, Tartu was also used. The film was released in England in late 1943 as Sabotage Agent, eight minutes longer (111 vs. 103 minutes) than the American release. The difference in running time is, due to at number of short added scenes, mostly near the end of the film, plus the addition of dubbing, alternate and extended shots throughout the film.A different exterior factory shot is seen exploding in each film.


In The Adventures of Tartu, the Nazi officers are shown as highly contemptible and shallow, professing devotion to Hitler's war aims merely as a cloak for their individual selfish desires. Tartu easily hoodwinks a factory director by appealing to the latter's desire to appear clever in front of his subordinates. He passes through an electric security checkpoint by erence to veiled promises to provide a girl for the head guard. A woman engineers a plot against Tartu by appealing to a Nazi officer's desire to have a romance with her and to win a promotion.




  • Aldgate, Anthony and Jeffrey Richards. Britain Can Take it: British Cinema in the Second World War. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2nd Edition, 1994. ISBN 0-7486-0508-8.
  • Barr, Charles, ed. All Our Yesterdays: 90 Years of British Cinema. London: British Film Institute, 1986. ISBN 0-85170-179-5.
  • Evans, Alun. Brassey's Guide to War Films. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books, 2000. ISBN 1-57488-263-5.
  • Weal, John. Ju 88 Kampfgeschwader on the Western Front. Botley, Oxfordshire, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2000. ISBN 1-84176-020-X.

Category:1943 films
Category:Black-and-white films
Category:British films
Category:British spy films
Category:Films based on short fiction
Category:Films directed by Harold S. Bucquet
Category:Films set in Romania
Category:Films set in London
Category:Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films
Category:World War II films made in wartime
Category:World War II spy films

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