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Sir Peter Ustinov as a hacker, Dame Maggie Smith as a dolly bird - what's not to like?
Those who only remember the late Sir Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot or a professional raconteur would do well to seek out this charming piece of late '60s satire. Ustinov stars as a convicted embezzler (we first see him during his last day in gaol where he is preparing the prison governor's tax return) who, sensing that the future is in computers, poses (by means of a deft piece of identity theft) as a computer expert and sets out to infiltrate an American multinational.
Ustinov (who co-wrote the script) is on top form, as is the delightful Maggie Smith, here unusually cast as an accident-prone cockney-sparrow dolly bird. Bob Newhart also puts in an amusing performance as a suspicious executive who has designs on Maggie Smith. In addition, Karl Malden is satisfyingly sleazy as Ustinov and Newhart's womanising boss.
What do I particularly like about this film? Not only is it a well-thought-out 'caper movie' but it's also a touching little love story; Ustinov and Smith are very convincing as the two misfits stumbling into love (the whole scene involving the deck of cards is particularly effective.)
So, what is there not to like? Well, the script is no more computer-literate than most films (that is, hardly at all) even though it captures the feel of late '60s 'big iron' business computing quite well. Also there are a couple of small plot glitches that you're not likely to notice until the second or third viewing, but I consider these to be minor niggles.
As I said, this is a film which is well worth seeking out, and after you've seen it once you'll want to see it again at regular intervals.
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