Jim Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman in Havana, is approached by a spy (Noel Coward) and invited to supply him with information in exchange for money.
Aware that he has no real intelligence to offer, Wormold decides to make some up. He also invents a string of imaginary agents and pockets their monthly pay packets.
Asked to “get results”, he fabricates a non-existent secret construction in the Cuban mountains.
To Wormold’s dismay, London sends him an administrative assistant, agent Beatrice Severn (Maureen O’Hara) and soon Wormold is in a triple bind. While he tries to hide the truth from the attractive Beatrice, a real and dangerous opposition agent, Carter (Paul Rogers,) appears on the scene.
Wormold’s German doctor friend Hasselbacher (Burl Ives) is beginning to act suspiciously as well, and to make matters worse, Wormold’s daughter Milly (Jo Morrow) has attracted the amorous attentions of Police Captain Segura (Ernie Kovacs), a brutal torturer known as “The Red Vulture”.
Events soon turn serious. London believes Wormold’s claims, but so do Her Majesty’s enemies, and innocent people suspected of being Wormold’s agents show up dead. Wormold does finally use a gun to even the score.
This comedy-drama stars Alec Guinness, Burl Ives, and Maureen O’Hara with Guinness in fine fettle as the vacuum cleaner salesman-turned-agent, but he seemed uncertain how dark to make the action once the joke took its sinister turn.
He wasn’t helped by real-life intelligence man Graham Greene’s occasionally pedestrian script.