Sep 172023

The Counterfeit Traitor is a 1962 spy thriller starring William Holden. I’m covering it solely for a couple of scenes.

Holden plays Eric Erickson, an apolitical American everyman living in neutral Sweden in the early days of WWII. Allied intelligence blackmails him into working as a spy in Nazi Germany. While slowly paced at the beginning, the tension picks up as Erickson sinks deeper into his cover and becomes entangled into the war whether he wants to or not.

Inevitably, Erickson’s cover is blown, and he has to depend on the resistance network to get him back to Sweden with vital intelligence. His backup contact is just a street address in Berlin. This turns out to be in the city’s red light district, with sex workers standing on the street or posing in windows.

One of them, Hulda (played by Ingrid van Bergen) poses in a window, wearing a black and red dominatrix outfit and flexing a whip (possibly a quirt), clearly indicating the kind of services she provides. She recognizes Erickson by his signal of wearing his pocket square with three points, and takes him inside the house. She changes to regular street wear and escorts him to the next contact, a dentist.

Though Hulda only appears in a couple of brief scenes, it is interesting to see a clear allusion to sadomasochistic sex work in a mainstream movie of this era. We know there were sex workers who specialized in BDSM in Berlin in the Weimar era, so it’s entirely plausible there would be ones during the war.

Ingrid van Bergen was a German actress who appeared in over 100 films. She played another sex worker in Town Without Pity (1961).

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