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For some reason, this year's Nobel prize in literature has been awarded to the young author Andrew Craig, who seems to be more interested in women and drinking than writing. Another laureate is Dr. Max Stratman, the famous German-American physicist who comes to Stockholm for the award ceremony with his young and beautiful niece Emily. The Foreign Department also assigns him an assistant during his stay, Miss Andersson. Craig soon notices that Dr. Stratman is acting strangely. The second time they meet, Dr. Stratman does not even recognize him. Craig begins to investigate. Written by
Stockholm never looked lovelier than in this film. Seldom have I seen a city made to look as beautiful and colorful as they managed to do here. While introducing farcical elements to replace the heavy romance in the original, director Mark Robson and screenwriter Ernest Lehman virtually remake Alfred Hitchcock's (and Lehman's) "North By Northwest" in a way that continually pokes fun at itself.
Paul Newman stars as effete and boozing American writer Andrew Craig, who somehow managed to win a Nobel Prize for Literature despite not having written anything but cheap detective novels for years. Arriving in Stockholm to attend the ceremony, he is shepherded during his stay by government representative Inger Andersson (the lovely Elke Sommer). He meets several other prize recipients, each of whom has some dysfunctional relationship with either a fellow prize winner or someone else close. Then there is one particular prize winner, Dr. Max Stratman (Edward G. Robinson), who is the subject of a sinister Cold-War plot....
Newman lounges through most of the film affecting a now-it's-there, now-it's-not effete speaking voice that contrasts sharply with his pretensions to being a lady killer. Being a detective-story writer, he quickly senses from some subtle facts that something is amiss with Dr. Stratman and his perky niece (Diane Baker). He spends the remainder of the film gallivanting around Stockholm solving the mystery while contending with assorted colorful locals.
Anyway, that's the set-up. There are gaping plot holes (at one point, Craig receives a mysterious and crucial phone call from someone for no apparent reason) and jokey scenes with no purpose (Lehman sends up a similar scene in "North By Northwest" by having Craig interrupt a Nudist Convention in order to escape bumbling killers). More so than usual in these types of films, the crooks seem to linger around practically inviting the hero to figure things out in time. The chief hired killer is a dead ringer for Martin Landau, who must have been unavailable, while Leo G. Carroll reprises his role as an authority figure to eliminate all confusion about what is going on. The real problem with the script is that it can't make up its mind to be a complete farce, so one minute Newman is stumbling around rather pathetically, the next he is outwitting professional killers on a cargo ship a la James Bond. As a mystery, the film is rather silly, and as a farce it pulls its punches, so those are not the reasons to see it.
But Stockholm is glorious! There is an irreverent live-and-let-live attitude throughout that plays on the stereotype that anything goes in hip Sweden, and Elke is the embodiment of that wistful notion. Newman gets off occasional one-liners of the type that Sean Connery did much better in the following year's "Goldfinger" but are amusing in their own right. Worth catching for a trip to a fabulous place that never really existed.
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