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After Charles Dobbs, a security officer, has a friendly chat with Samuel Fennan from the Foreign Office, the man commits suicide. An anonymous typed letter had been received accusing Fennan of being a Communist during his days at Oxford and their chat while walking in the park was quite amiable. Senior officials want the whole thing swept under the rug and are pleased to leave it as a suicide. Dobbs isn't at all sure as there are a number of anomalies that simply can't be explained away. Dobbs is also having trouble at home with his errant wife, whom he very much loves, having frequent affairs. He's also pleased to see an old friend, Dieter Frey, who he recruited after the war. With the assistance of a colleague and a retired policeman, Dobbs tries to piece together just who is the spy and who in fact assassinated Fennan. Written by
How can you be so aggressive about your job and so gentle about me?
I've always thought that... being aggressive was the way to... keep my job and being gentle was the way to keep you,
[after a reflective pause]
Well, I've lost my job, haven't I?
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So-so spy drama is derivative and influential at the same time...
Some nice atmosphere is created in this dated, but relatively engaging spy story. It also boasts a very fine cast of international film actors. Mason plays a British spy whose seemingly benign interview with a government official with Communism in his background kicks off a series of murders and attempted murders. He must, with the help of a few friends, unravel the baffling reasons behind the deaths all the while dealing with his comparatively young wife (Andersson) who can't stay out of other men's beds. Andrews offers wonderful support as an endearingly matter-of-fact and tough retired policeman. Schell is absolutely gorgeous as an old chum of Mason's. Signoret (looking not unlike Broderick Crawford and speaking almost to a level at which she can be heard) plays the dead man's bereaved widow. Other small parts are played by stalwarts like Haigh as a quasi-gay co-worker of Mason's, Kinnear as a slimy hood and Redgrave as a dippy, friendly stagehand. Assets include the bouncy Quincy Jones score, the muted, clean photography and the nuanced performances of the mostly solid cast. Detriments would be the somewhat sluggish telling of the story and the horrible sound levels in the film. Any and all sound effects and music are played much more loudly than any of the dialogue. The ear is assaulted by raindrops, car engines, anything, really, while the words can barely be heard in some cases. The heavy accents of many of the players only compound the problem. Also, Andersson is just plain bad as Mason's wife. The role is no good anyway, but she looks, sounds and acts horribly throughout. Still, there's enough mystery and polish in the film to hold the attention of a true film buff or a fan of Mason. Others, used to more electric and/or shoot-em-up fare will be bored silly from the start.
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