Ernst Hildebrund (Charles Jacquemar) is a scientist who escapes from behind the Iron Curtain with valuable information that the allies need. He manages to make his way to Vienna. At a phone booth he calls his contact at British Intelligence, Allan Peters (Dennis Price). Allan tells him to stay where he is, and he will be right there to get him. Hildebrund is feeling squirrely about the people around him so he leaves before Allan can get there.
Hildebrund’s daughter, Helen (Peggy Ann Garner), is already in Vienna so he makes his way to the library where she works. Helen works in the Braille section where books for the blind are available. Currently there are nine people in the Braille Room, reading. While Helen is sitting there, there is a knock on the door of the room. Helen opens it and finds her father standing there. The reunion, in the hallway, is short but warm. Helen tells her father that she is going to get permission to leave for the day so they can have some time together. Hildebrund is about to give her an envelope when Carl (Christian Dorn) walks by. Carl is an undercover agent for the British posing as a library assistant, however, Hildebrund doesn’t know that and is suspicious of everyone, so he puts the envelope back in his pocket.
As Helen goes to get her coat, Hildebrund enters the reading room and sits down. Across from him is a man that looks like he is reading a book in Braille. Something about the man kicks up Hildebrund’s spidey sense. He leaves the room and puts the envelope in a book that is sitting on a book cart outside the room. He then reenters the room and sits down again. Now no longer pretending to read, the man stabs Hildebrund. The other eight people in the room know something is wrong but they don’t know that it is murder.
Allan arrives at the library too late to save Hildebrund. The killer (Wolfgang Buttner), not being able to find the envelope, leaves to report to his boss (Gerhard Kittler). Allan questions the eight blind witnesses on what they heard. He is now in a race to find the envelope before the enemy does.
“Eight Witnesses” was released in either 1950 or 1954 and was directed by Lawrence Huntington. It is a low budget British, West German and American co-production spy thriller.
You never really know what is in the envelope. It is only referred to as government secrets. No one actually says it is a secret formula but it’s pretty safe to assume. All you do know is that both sides want it. It’s more of a MacGuffin than an important part of the plot.
There are a couple scenes in the beginning and ending of the film that don’t seem to go along with the rest of the film. They look like they may have been added to the American version. The acting is not as good as in the rest of the film and the dialogue is not as tight. I’m not sure why it’s there since it doesn’t add anything to the film and gives the movie a bland ending. I wouldn’t be surprised if the American version also had some scenes edited out. The version I have is about seven minutes short, despite the slapped on beginning and ending.
I was slightly disappointed with the misleading title. The film is marketed as a mystery thriller and so I was expecting a murder mystery. Instead, it turned out to be a cold war spy film. Despite the bait and switch with the title I still found the movie interesting and was caught up in the hunt for the secret MacGuffin envelope, even though I knew exactly where it was. Actually, everything is up front, and the audience knows who the killer is as well as what the victim did with the government secrets. It doesn’t take away from the fact that the players don’t know everything, and we get to watch them figure it all out. The ending was a little weak but all in all not a bad little oddity.