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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
Obviously inspired by Hitchcock, but as Hitchcock-imitations go this one is absolutely terrific.
Director Mark Robson tilts his hat to Hitchcock with this adaptation of an Irving Wallace novel. A slick, light-hearted thriller of international intrigue, with a dash of sex and humour thrown in, "The Prize" is actually BETTER than some of the stuff Hitchcock was making around that time (eg Torn Curtain and Topaz). No doubt, part of the reason for the Hitchcockian similarities is due to the fact that this film was scripted by Ernest Lehmann, who just a few years previously had written North By Northwest. Anyone who remembers North By Northwest will probably recollect the famous auction house scene, and here, in "The Prize", Lehmann has written-in an almost identical scene in which the hero narrowly evades capture by creating a stir at a nudists' conference!
American writer Andrew Craig (Paul Newman) is in Stockholm for the Nobel Prize Ceremony, for which he has won the Literature award. Known for his boozy antics, as well as his distinct lack of respect for those in authority, Craig is assigned a personal assistant, Inger Lisa Andersson (Elke Sommer), to keep him in check during his stay. Less well-known is the fact that Craig has been suffering from writer's block for several years, and has been writing cheap crime novels under a pseudonym in order to make ends meet. With his nose for a mystery he soon sniffs out some very curious goings-on at the ceremony. He becomes increasingly convinced that the Physics Prize Winner, Dr Max Stratman (Edward G. Robinson) has been kidnapped and replaced by a double. Since no-one will believe him, it is left to Craig and his pretty Swedish assistant to uncover the truth.
"The Prize" actually starts quite slowly, with an amount of time set aside for character introductions and plot exposition that impatient viewers might find excessive. However, the build-up pays off brilliantly once the action gets underway and all the jigsaw pieces of the plot drop into place. Modern film-makers seem to be of the opinion that the best approach is to hurl the audience straight into the action, but "The Prize" proves conclusively that audiences get far more excitement and enjoyment when the plot and characters have been constructed with care and detail. In particular, the relationship between the various Nobel prizewinners is an utter joy (especially the husband-and-wife chemistry winners who actually hate each other; and the co-winners of the medical award who accuse each other of stealing their best ideas). There are a great variety of suspenseful and humorous moments in "The Prize". Add to that the game performances, excellent location work, Jerry Goldsmith's good music score, and the general sense of solid, old-fashioned entertainment.... and you're looking at a Hitchcock pastiche par excellence.
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