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Sam Laker is an American industrialist, working in Britain, who has just been awarded an international award for industrial design. He is planning to travel to East Germany to attend a trade show and show off his invention, taking his 10 year old son with him for a holiday. Meanwhile a British Intelligence officer who served with Laker in the Second World War decides to use the opportunity of Laker's trip and his lack of an intelligence profile to coerce him into carrying out an assassination. Written by
Sean Brennan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sinatra becomes a killer as pawn in an MI-5 psy-op
This is a UK movie that was a Sinatra property and produced by his pal, Brad Dexter. Therefore, the cast is mainly British and European. The story takes place in Germany and Denmark, mainly.
Like The Manchurian Candidate, it too involves a man who is psychologically manipulated to do what a government intelligence operation wants him to do, which, in this case, is to assassinate a defector. This produces a high level of suspense leading up to the actual shooting.
However, unlike The Manchurian Candidate, there is no massive brain washing and hypnosis-type mind manipulation and conditioning going on. Instead the intelligence man Slattery (Peter Vaughan), who knows Laker (Frank Sinatra) from the war, manipulates situation after situation so as to produce in him the desire to kill. His chief aide in this is a man in the field, Hartmann (played by Derren Nesbitt). Mr. Nesbitt is always reliably excellent, and he outdoes himself in this one. Sly and oily Vaughan is a close second.
Sinatra plays a relatively weaker man than in some of his outings, a little bit more as in The Man with the Golden Arm. This becomes reasonably believable because of the situations he enters, but I did think that an actor like Van Heflin would have played this part even better.
The film is ahead of its time in identifying the psy-ops of these intelligence arms of government. The film narrowly focuses on that and explores it to the hilt. There is little outdoor scenery except to establish place and occasionally give a glimpse of the freedom that Sinatra lacks when once he is drawn into the plot. The indoor photography and direction suitably build up the sense of confinement and despair of Sinatra who fears for his son's life.
Thus, in the end, the film becomes a noir psychological spy movie done in color, and a very good one at that.
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