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When the fabled Star of Rhodesia diamond is stolen on a London to Edinburgh train and the son of its owner is murdered, Sherlock Holmes must discover which of his suspicious fellow passengers is responsible.
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
Cinematographer John Alton, who had retired in 1960, met former colleague Anthony Mann in a Swiss casino high up in the Alps. Mann was directing "A Dandy in Aspic" at the time and wanted Alton to shoot his next picture. Alton agreed to talk to him about it the next day, but Mann died before their meeting. According to Alton, "He'd been losing so much money at the casino, that probably helped kill him. The industry lost a great man.". Laurence Harvey completed the picture. See more »
[to Caroline about Eberlin]
I do believe you two would have gone on well together. You haven't got a past, and he hasn't got a future. None at all.
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Burned out Russian mole, Laurence Harvey, has nowhere to go
Spy movies helped to usher in the classic film noir era, and bleak spy movies like "The Deadly Affair" (1966), "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" (1965), "The Ipcress File" (1965), and "A Dandy in Aspic" (1968) are one direction that noir took after that era ended. I should think that noir fans will enjoy these typically serious and brooding films, replete with double agents, shaken identities, burned out cases, lack of trust, cynicism, and dark forces that buffet the spies. The lines between East and West usually do not matter much, as both sides are occupied by professionals who seem to be in the game for other reasons of their own and not just patriotic loyalty.
"A Dandy in Aspic" centers on Laurence Harvey's portrayal of a burned out Russian mole in British intelligence who is assigned to ferret out and kill a Russian mole in Berlin, who is he himself. Harvey is simply terrific in the part, and he delivers some really great and cutting lines. Along the way, he meets with photographer Mia Farrow who affords him an opportunity to dally and delay. But he's being pressured by an associate who has accompanied him, Tom Courtenay, who has nothing but lower-class anger bubbling over against the dandy Harvey. The supporting cast does standout work as well, bolstering a story that's rather on the diffuse, discontinuous and episodic side. Savoring the characters and their interactions takes precedence over forward momentum if one is to enjoy this film.
Harvey is hemmed in. He senses this from the outset. In a way, he knows that he cannot continue to assassinate British agents without being discovered. He may not know this consciously but the double game has worn him down and his position is revealing itself in that manner. His work is no longer easy but requires a large expenditure of nervous energy. He's unsure he can continue it. In one sequence, he attempts to go back home by crossing into East Berlin, but the officials have been alerted not to allow this. In a London sequence, he links up with his friend and fellow-agent Per Oscarsson with whom he commiserates. The British have wrongly identified Oscarsson as the mole, or is their identification purposeful? Is Harvey being used as a bird dog? His options have become limited. Like many a noir protagonist, he's trapped and he's attempting to escape the trap.
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