The Counterfeit Traitor recounts one of the most exciting true stories of World War II.
It opens in 1942 with Eric Erickson (William Holden), an American-born naturalised Swede whose oil-importing businessman and connections with Germany have put him on the blacklist of the Allied High Command.
They offer to remove him from this list in exchange for information about German oil refineries, which he is in a position to obtain through his frequent trips to Germany.
He agrees to cooperate and starts cultivating a friendship with pro-Nazis and the German legation in Sweden. In so doing, he is ostracised by his friends and family.
Next, he tours Germany inspecting oil refineries, and in Berlin, he has contact with Marianne Möllendorf (Lilli Palmer), who, although German, is an allied agent.
In Hamburg, he recruits a German friend, Otto Holtz (Carl Raddatz), for his work with the Allies.
Holtz demands a letter guaranteeing him safety should the Allies win the war, which is put in a safe place known only to the two men.
With his campaign mapped out, Erickson returns to Sweden to make one of his regular reports to Collins (Hugh Griffith), a British Intelligence Officer, but the Germans with whom he associates are becoming suspicious of his duplicity and have him watched.
His Swedish wife, Ingrid (Eva Dahlbeck), in whom he is not allowed to confide, distrusts him and finally deserts him, and in his loneliness, he is drawn to Marianne on his visits to Berlin.
The strain of seeing her compatriots killed in air raids – which she has made possible – is too great for Marianne. She is considering discontinuing her spying activities when she is arrested by SS officers and condemned to death.
Meanwhile, Erickson hears of Holtz’s death and goes to Hamburg to retrieve their written agreement which would give Erickson’s game away if found by the Nazis.
He is discovered recovering it by Holtz’s son, Hans (Helo Gutschwager), a member of the Hitler Youth movement, who threatens to expose him – until Erickson points out that to do so would reveal his dead father as having been a traitor.
At Holtz’s funeral, the truth is forced out of the boy by a member of the Gestapo, who consequently attempts to arrest Erickson, who is among the mourners. Erickson kills the Nazi and flees.
The only thing for him to do is to make his way home to Sweden. It is a long and dangerous flight through Germany and Denmark and across the Kattegat, a flight fraught with perils and obstacles that only the intricate planning of the underground movement can surmount.
Erickson’s bid for freedom takes up the last reels of the picture, and – like the rest of the film, it was shot in the actual countries concerned. To further add to the realism, the producers, as far as possible, cast actors of the nationality of the characters they were playing.
The photography is in Technicolor.
Frau Marianne Möllendorf
Baron Gerhard von Oldenburg
Ingrid van Bergen
Nazi Gunboat Officer
Fishing Boat Skipper