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When US radar installations in Greece are jammed and an undercover NATO security man is killed, suspicion falls on his widow, who sets out to find the real culprits and prove herself innocent. Written by
WHO'S GOT THE BLACK BOX? (Claude Chabrol, 1967) **1/2
Even if he had the greatest longevity among the Nouvelle Vague crowd, Chabrol's work tends to be erratic - but, at his best (usually when directing psychological thrillers), he was up there with Hitchcock and Lang.
This was a film I had missed out on previously so, when it turned up again recently on late-night Italian TV, I made sure to catch it this time. Despite its credentials, it doesn't have a very good reputation and, watching it now, I can well understand why! The muddled storyline makes for an espionage thriller that's somewhat dreary (with the titular device serving as the proverbial "McGuffin"); nevertheless, it definitely benefits from a good cast (an appealing Jean Seberg, Christian Marquand, a rather glum-looking Saro Urzi, Chabrol himself in a small but important role - which, at one point, sees him disguised as a Greek Orthodox priest! - as well as regulars Maurice Ronet and Michel Bouquet - the latter, perhaps, coming off best of all), the lush cinematography of Greek locations (courtesy of Jean Rabier) and Pierre Jansen's lively score. Its tongue-in-cheek approach helps, too, resulting in the occasional amusing moment or quip (though the film never quite descends to the camp level of, say, MARIE-CHANTAL VS. DR. KHA ).
All things considered, then, a very minor Chabrol which, interestingly enough, directly preceded LES BICHES (1968) - the film which heralded his greatest period (one that would last, more or less, till 1975's INNOCENTS WITH DIRTY HANDS). WHO'S GOT THE BLACK BOX? is out on R1 DVD through Pathfinder - but the company's hit-and-miss record and the disc's own bare-bones status don't give it much hope of an eventual purchase from me (unless they stick it in another Box Set somewhere down the line, though it seems that the only other title they have released outside of the already-existing 8-Disc Collection - and which I've been pondering about picking up for ages! - is PLEASURE PARTY , available as a stand-alone SE)...
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