Hotel Reserve

Hotel Reserve is a 1944 spy film starring James Mason as an innocent man caught up in pre-Second World War espionage.[2] It was based on Eric Ambler's novel Epitaph for a Spy.[3] Unusually, it was both directed and produced by a trio: Lance Comfort, Mutz Greenbaum (credited as Max Greene) and Victor Hanbury.[4]

Hotel Reserve
Original UK cinema poster
Directed byLance Comfort
Mutz Greenbaum
Victor Hanbury
Produced byLance Comfort
Mutz Greenbaum
Victor Hanbury
Screenplay byJohn Davenport
Based onEpitaph for a Spy
by Eric Ambler
StarringJames Mason
Lucie Mannheim
Music byLennox Berkeley
CinematographyMutz Greenbaum
Edited bySidney Stone
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • 1 June 1944 (1944-06-01) (Premiere-London)[1]
  • 22 December 1945 (1945-12-22) (U.S.)[1]
Running time
79-90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


In 1938, refugee Peter Vadassy (James Mason) decides to take a vacation at the Hotel Reserve to celebrate both his completion of medical school and his impending French citizenship. When he goes to pick up some photographs at the local pharmacy, he is taken away and questioned by Michel Beghin (Julien Mitchell) of French naval intelligence. When his negatives had been developed, some of them turned out to be of French military installations. It is discovered that while the camera is the same make as Peter's, the serial number is different. Peter is released on condition that he find out which other hotel guests have cameras like his.

Peter does some snooping and eavesdrops on a suspicious conversation between Paul Heimberger (Frederick Valk) and the hotel's proprietor, Madame Suzanne Koch (Lucie Mannheim). He searches Heimberger's room and finds several passports, all with different names and nationalities. Heimberger catches him in the act, but eventually matters are straightened out. Heimberger explains that he was originally a Social Democratic newspaper publisher who was anti-Nazi and been sent to a concentration camp for two years. After he was released, he joined an underground movement against the German regime.

Peter spots his camera in the pocket of a dressing-gown belonging to Odette Roux (Patricia Medina) and Andre (Herbert Lom), a couple on their honeymoon. Andre first tries to bribe Peter into giving him the negative and, when that fails, threatens him with a pistol. The police arrive at that moment and arrest Peter for espionage.

The Rouxs leave the hotel, but find Heimberger trying to disable the hotel's car. Andre shoots him dead and the couple speed off to Toulon, unaware that they are being tracked by the police. Beghin had known the identity of the spies all along and merely used Peter to further his true goal; to find out who the Rouxs are reporting to. The spy ring is captured. Andre gets away, but is caught on a roof by Peter. Andre slips and falls to his death.


Critical reception

The Radio Times noted, "this subdued thriller, set just before the Second World War, is lifted by James Mason's performance as a 'wronged man'," and concluded, "The plot has enough suspense and intrigue built in, but this movie only fitfully comes to life as Mason sets out discover who the real villain is";[2] Dennis Schwartz found it "a visually attractive film, though hampered because it's so slow moving";[5] whereas Leonard Maltin thought more highly of the piece, finding it a "Suspenseful, moody film." [6]


  1. "Hotel Reserve: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  2. Hutchinson, Tom. "Hotel Reserve". Radio Times. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  3. "Hotel Reserve (1944)". AllMovie. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  4. "Hotel Reserve (1943)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  5. Schwartz, Dennis. "Hotel Reserve". Ozus' World Movie Reviews. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  6. "Hotel Reserve (1945)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
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