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Erich von Stroheim,
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Double-agent Alexander Eberlin is assigned by the British to hunt out a Russian spy, known to them as Krasnevin. Only Eberlin knows that Krasnevin is none other than himself! Accompanying him on his mission is a ruthless partner, who gradually discovers his secret as Eberlin tries to maneuver himself out of a desperate situation. Written by
This is the last film directed by Anthony Mann, whose 'Raw Deal' (1948) was the perfect noir film, and who was a man of immense talent. But he died while shooting this, and Larry Harvey finished the job. This resulted in an imbalance and a lack of conception and tone. What is mostly wrong with the way this turned out is that the film is 'so VERY late sixties' in its depiction of the bowler-hatted old school tie mandarins and spy chiefs as arch, coy, and menacing in a prep sort of way. Mia Farrow is also completely hopeless as 'the girl'. She is supposed to be an irresistible little elf of a thing, but she merely looks like she is dying of anorexia (her arms are as big as knitting needles, though less strong) and about as much elfin charm as a cockroach. Farrow may be a fine actress now, but she was terrible when young. Her failure, of course, took all the zing out of the picture. Larry Harvey is absolutely fascinating as a double-agent going to pieces in private, with a constipated desperation. Larry actually had that enigmatic, super-cool manner a lot of the time. He had cultivated it so well that it became ingrained and a part of him, and it had ceased to be affectation long before I knew him towards the end of his life. I had several long chats with him alone, when he dropped his guard very much indeed, and underneath any patina of persona he had made for himself, he was at heart a very genuine person. And he WAS as fascinating as he seems in his movies. He didn't know why either, but then true stars never do. This film is worth seeing for him, and for a hysterically funny cameo by John Bird. Clearly, Larry thought it was so funny he refused to restrain him, on a 'what the hell' basis, and a good thing too, as it made a rather pedestrian film come alive a bit. Lionel Stander, however, hammed up his part of a Russian so much he deserved an apple in his mouth. Per Oscarsson was wan and Ingmar Bergman-like, just as you would expect. Peter Cook floats around cheerily not knowing what to do and never did find out. Oh yes, this whole thing is about spies and betrayal and double-agents and all that sort of thing. Hardly matters. Tom Courtenay, that pipsqueak, cast here as a 'heavy', does not work. One does not believe in the rifle he is always carrying as a shooting stick, not his ability to use it. One strange aspect of this tale is that the double-agent is disillusioned and wants to return to Russia, but they won't let him and keep turning him back at the German border: a variation on Thomas Wolfe's 'You Can't Go Home Again'? Just joking. This film is past is 'view by' date.
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