"The House on 92nd Street" -- the first film made with the cooperation of the FBI -- tells the story of the FBI's bust of a Nazi spy ring who'd tried to steal the plans for the atomic bomb. The hero, Bill Dietrich, is an American of German ancestry who was approached by the Nazis to spy for their regime. Instead, he volunteers his services to the FBI and becomes a double-agent. After training at a Nazi school in Hamburg, Dietrich returns to the US as paymaster and radioman for the Nazi spy faction operating in New York. This group, run by the hard-as-nails Elsa, controls other agents and informants and, in turn, is controlled by the mysterious "Mr. Christopher". The intriguing and fast-paced story leads to a surprise ending that does not disappoint.
This film was the first-ever "semi-documentary." It has aspects of a documentary: true-life footage inside FBI headquarters, genuine footage of Nazis in the US and their arrests, and G-men playing for the screen the same roles they took in solving the actual crime. The plot is interrupted, now and then, by documentary-like stentorian narration. It is, however, a dramatization and the screenwriters took minor liberties with the facts (i.e., certain of the actual villains were married.) It can also be seen as a commercial for the FBI, and 1945 audiences no doubt were left with a gee-whiz feeling when they saw the footage of the largest file room in the United States, with its millions of fingerprints; the detailed files on all potentially-troublesome foreigners (supposedly rounded up in one day); the FBI's one-way glass mirrors; the elaborate shortwave radio set-ups and the like. Those who have seen episodes of "The FBI" have seen this sort of thing before, but it was designed to awe (and reassure) the film's post-war audience and jolt America's enemies.
The DVD includes erudite commentary by film noir historian Eddie Muller. As Muller points out, this film is not an actual noir. Rather than focusing on one individual and his reactions as events close in on him (think "Sorry, Wrong Number," or "Crossfire") this is a straightforward account. Indeed, much of the plot is driven by the desire to show off the technology. That does not mean that the plot is not extremely engaging -- it is. The actors, including the minor actors, do a terrific job. It is very easy to overplay evil spies so that they almost become caricatures (there is a "we have ways of making you talk" scene) but overall, they do a fine job with the material. And the direction and photography are first rate.
Watch the film once through, then watch it with the insightful commentary. Take a look at the press book (included) and the photos. I recommend it highly.