The Two-Headed Spy

The Two-Headed Spy is a 1958 British spy thriller film directed by Andre DeToth and starring Jack Hawkins, Gia Scala, Erik Schumann and Alexander Knox. The film, which has elements of film noir and is set in the Second World War, was based on a story by J. Alvin Kugelmass called Britain's Two-Headed Spy and is notable for having been scripted by blacklisted writers.

The Two-Headed Spy
Theatrical poster
Directed byAndre DeToth
Produced byBill Kirby
Written byJ. Alvin Kugelmass
Michael Wilson (originally credited as "James O'Donnell")
Alfred Levitt (uncredited)
StarringJack Hawkins
Gia Scala
Erik Schumann
Alexander Knox
Music byGerard Schurmann
CinematographyTed Scaife
Edited byRaymond Poulton
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
17 November 1958 (UK)
2 March 1959 (US)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


The story commences in 1939. Alex Schottland, a general in charge of supplies in the German Army, is actually a long-entrenched British agent who was planted in Germany toward the end of the First World War. He is growing weary of being a spy, but is urged to continue by his friend and fellow British agent, Cornaz, who is posing as an antique dealer.

In 1941, Schottland passes on information that Germany is about to invade the Soviet Union. Captain Reinisch, a Gestapo agent and Schottland's suspicious aide, discovers that Schottland has changed his original name and is of British ancestry. However, his superiors already know about Schottland's past and scoff at the possibility that he is a spy. To deflect suspicion and boost his own credibility as a loyal Nazi, Schottland claims at a staff meeting that "defeatists" inside the German high command have leaked military information to the enemy.

Cornaz is arrested after their courier to the British is intercepted. Schottland, as a customer at the antique shop, is summoned to headquarters for questioning. There Schottland is forced to watch as Gestapo officer Müller tortures Cornaz in a scene in which a fire hose is used to force water into Cornaz's bowels. This kills him, so there is little actual evidence to incriminate Schottland. Though he is arrested, the General is soon released on the intervention of a high-ranking Nazi, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who had been convinced of his sincerity when Schottland seemingly damaged his own position with his accusation of defeatism among the General Staff.

Cornaz's replacement as a relayer of military information to the British is the attractive singer Lili Geyr. Though drawn to each other, they agree not to get involved emotionally, but Schottland pretends to be having an affair with her while actually passing on information. The pretence further antagonizes Reinisch, who is in love with Geyr himself.

Schottland wishes to pass on news of the attempt to break through Allied lines in the Battle of the Bulge, but Geyr no longer has means of communicating the information to the British. When Schottland is ordered to the front, he drives off the main road and tries to contact the Allies via a radio transmitter, but is forced to shoot a corporal who interrupts him. Schottland returns to Berlin and, now unable to transmit vital news, decides to sabotage the German war effort by tricking Hitler into making strategic military blunders. He does this successfully by catering to Hitler's vanity and deluded sense of the realities of the military situation.

With the war nearing its end, Schottland sends Geyr to cross over to the Allies. The plan is that once safely behind the lines she is to stay there, and after the war she and Schottland will re-unite in London and live together, at last acknowledging the strength of their relationship. Geyr is intercepted by Reinisch, who follows and shoots her, in the process getting his hands on incontrovertible evidence of Schottland's involvement in giving away German military secrets. Reinisch does not immediately act on what he has learned, however. His attempt to contact his superiors in the Gestapo fails because the communication network is in chaos. When he finally confronts Schottland the next morning at Schottland's home, they fight, struggle for a dropped gun, and Schottland kills Reinisch. He then requests an immediate meeting with Hitler, where he implicates capable German generals as defeatists so that they will be relieved of their duties, and also casts suspicion on Müller, who as a result is also arrested.

Having volunteered to contact a missing general to assist in the defence of Berlin, Schottland is driven along an autobahn. Orders are received to pursue him, but he cuts across the forest towards the Allied lines. Camouflaged troops capture him, and on realising they are British his face breaks into a relieved smile.



Lt. Col. Alexander Scotland OBE served as technical adviser to the film. Although the movie was ostensibly based on a true story, and Scotland was known as "Schottland" during his service with German forces in Africa at the turn of the century, the movie was not based on Scotland's experiences. He served during the war as commandant of "The London Cage," an MI19 facility that interrogated captured Germans.[1][2]

Michael Caine appears in a bit part as a Gestapo officer, and Donald Pleasence plays a German general. Screenwriters Michael Wilson and Alfred Levitt were not given credit because of the blacklist. The credit instead was given to James O'Donnell. Their credits were restored in 1999. Dalton Trumbo, also blacklisted, was a story consultant.[3]


  1. Scotland, A.P. (1957). The London Cage. London, UK: Evans Brothers, Ltd.
  2. West, Nigel ed. (1995) The Guy Liddell Diaries: Mi5's Director of Counter-Espionage in World War II
  3. Peter Hanson, Dalton Trumbo, Hollywood Rebel: A Critical Survey and Filmography, McFarland, 2001. p. 219
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