Colonel Redl (1985)


Director:  Istvan Szabo

Cast:  Klaus Maria Brandauer (Col. Redl), Hans Christian Blech

Country:  German (English subtitles)

 Austrian-Hungarian Empire




This movie deals with the rise and fall of Col. Redl, an Austro-Hungarian military officer.  There was a real Colonel Alfred Redl, a Ukranian Jew and a homosexual.  In real life Redl was a true spy; in this film, however, Redl is a victim of the ambitions of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne to overthrow his father, the Emperor Franz Josef. 

In the film, Redl is portrayed as a super patriot.  He is absolutely devoted to the Emperor, even writing poetry in honor of the leader.  He is a diligent and intelligent young fellow from a poor family who receives a scholarship to a military school at a young age.  He becomes a workaholic in service to his nation and rises to the rank of the chief of intelligence.

That is a long rise from poverty.  But, his bubble starts to burst, because of the political ambitions of Crown Prince Ferdinand. The heir apparent gives Redl the assignment of find someone he can accuse of high treason in order to claim that the Emperor's ability to govern effectively had been compromised.  Like a good soldier, Redl does his duty. 

But soon, Redl himself becomes the one accused of high treason.  To spring the trap, Arch Duke Ferdinand uses a homosexual plant to seduce Redl into revealing key military secrets.    

So, instead of Redl being the bad guy, the bad guy is the Arch Duke, who treacherously uses homosexuality to seduce and frame Redl.  This makes for an interesting film, even if it does stray from the facts. 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1864 (March 14)  -- Alfred Redl was born in Lemberg, Ukraine (then Galicia, Austria).  

He became an Austro-Hungarian military officer and became a protégé of General von Giesl. I

1900 --  he was promoted to chief of the counterintelligence corps under von Giesl, who was in charge of all intelligence activities.

Redl rose to be head of counter-intelligence.  He was good at his job using technological innovations to capture foreign intelligence agents.

It is conjectured that Russian agents caught Redl in a compromising position (Redl was homosexual) and used this to blackmail him into espionage for the Russians. But then again, the Russians paid him well and he had a very good lifestyle.

He performed well for the Russians.  He passed a great deal of information on to agent Okhrana, especially concerning the Austro-Hungarian offensive against Serbia.  He also exposed to Russian intelligence those Russian officers who contacted Austro-Hungarian intelligence.

One day Redl lost his pen-knife sheath in Prague, the third largest city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  An Austrian counter-intelligence agent trained by Redl himself found the sheath, which aroused his suspicions.  He then started a close watch on Redl.  He noticed that Redl received notes from the known spy border-crossing area in Eydtkuhnen, East Prussia. 

1912  --  Redl was exposed as a spy for the Russians. 

1913 (June 25)  --  when Redl learned of his exposure, he committed suicide.  This made it impossible for Austrian Intelligence to interrogate him. 

It is believed that Austro-Hungarian defeats in the early months of World War I were due to Redl's passing on the plans for the attack on Serbia to Russia.  (It was already too late to change their plans concerning the attack on Serbia.)



Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)