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Enemy agents have been jamming NATO radar signals with mysterious "black
boxes" that they have planted around various locations in Greece. American
agent Bob Ford (who speaks with a perfect French accent) is killed while
on the trail of the nefarious enemy agents. His widow Shanny, despite
warnings from fellow American agent Dex, vows to avenge his killing and
locate the "black boxes."
Claude Chabrol claimed his LA ROUTE DE CORINTHE was homage to Alfred Hitchcock. The film does vaguely resemble Hitchcocks NOTORIOUS with the "black boxes" serving as "the McGuffin." The film is also typical of 60's spy movies in that it features cartoonish bad guys. Jean Seberg is lovely as the brave avenging widow who gets in and out of many scrapes through out the course of the film. The films Greek locations give the film much visual interest. LA ROUTE DE CORINTHE is a competent and fairly enjoyable 60's spy thiller but it is also undistinguished.
If the prospect of watching Jean Seberg dangle from a crane is appealing
you then perhaps you may get something out of this pointless exercise. As
it sits there is really very little to recommend here other than the
luminous beauty of the star.
The story, the smuggling of little black boxes that jam the Greek radar stations, is nothing to get excited about and director Claude Chabrol refuses to inject much in the way of action or suspense to offset it. Chabrol made a few spy flicks early in his career (see Our Agent Tiger) but this one must be considered the weakest.
The film opens with an anonymous quotation: `I don't ask you to believe it but I suggest that you dream about it.' There is a certain dream-like quality to the proceedings but this lackadaisical film is nearly anti-spy cinema. If the question is `Who has the black box?' the reply simply has to be `Who cares?'
The Road to Corinth aka Who's Got the Black Box is an unashamedly ridiculous film that just happened to catch me in exactly the right frame of mind. This French spy spoof from 1967 sees Claude Chabrol in surprisingly playful mood and Jean Seberg once again demonstrating her ability to speak French without a trace of a French accent as a spy's widow out to uncover a plot by 'the enemy' that no-one seems overeager to discover and prove her innocence. Maurice Ronet plays straight man, Michel Bouquet smirks a lot while eating Turkish Delight, Brando's, ahem, close personal friend Christian Marquand pops up as a motorbike riding, sardine-loving truck driver and Chabrol himself cameos as an informer disguised as a Greek Orthodox priest. The camera-work is much more visually imaginative and ambitious than usual for Chabrol and a world away from his subsequently more refined and unostentatious approach, and any spy film that begins with a magician being interrogated after they find one of a series of radar jamming black boxes among the doves and rabbits in his car can't be all bad. Did I mention the assassin in a white straw hat with a taste for reading women's magazines while waiting for his victims or the bouzouki-dancing henchman? It's a very minor addition to Chabrol's oeuvre, but it's a lot more engaging than some of his more serious efforts.
Add Seberg and Greece to Chabrol and you'd expect something to sizzle.
Unfortunately sizzle is not quite the right word - damp squib, maybe?
The plot, such as it is, has been well set out by others so I won't
rehash that. Whilst the story and the events are ridiculous, there is,
nevertheless, a certain style here. The opening scene, where a magician
enters Greece and the Greek border guards find the incriminating goods,
promises a good film (I understand that this scene was cut from the
version originally shown in the UK - as it's one of the best scenes
goodness knows what it must have been like watching it back then). But
sadly it's all downhill from there although the style and flair are
still there. Who could fail to admire the dapper, but ruthless, killer
in his white suit, white shirt, red tie and matching red-banded straw
boater? Fortunately Chabrol returned to more masterful output a year
later with "Les Biches", a film that is so far removed from this it's
hard to believe it's the same director.
And who on earth dreamt up the dumb English language title for the US release? Surely "The Road to Corinth" would have worked.
This is the last film of Chabrol's sixties transitional period
(1962-1967);the next one "Les Biches" inaugurates the great era which
many consider Chabrol's finest hour.Using the same actors as in "La
Ligne de Démarcation" ,Chabrol tried his hand at a spoof on the spy
thrillers which were so hip at the time in the wake of James Bond ;call
it "Marie-Chantal Contre le Docteur Kha 2".Jean Seberg's character's
recalls Marie Laforêt's.
The story is absolutely far-fetched and the viewer doesn't care a little bit for the "black boxes" which threaten the world and its radars.Michel Bouquet has a couldn't- care- less part and you would not think by looking at him he would become the great actor of such Chabrolesque achievements as " La Femme Infidèle" -where he would meet again Maurice Ronet-"La Rupture" or " Juste Avant La Nuit".Jean Seberg plays the part of a not-so-dumb-bimbo and she's very good-looking as Greek landscapes filmed by Rabier are.
Like this ? try these....
"OSS 117: Le Caire Nid D'Espions" (Hazanavicius ,2006) "Coplan Sauve Sa Peau" (Boisset,1967) "Marie-Chantal Contre Le Docteur Khâ" (Chabrol,1965)
The more Claude Chabrol films I check out, the more I like the great
French director. Prior to seeing this early Chabrol flick, I hadn't
seen a bad film from him - after seeing it, I have to say that I still
haven't; but that doesn't change the fact that The Road to Corinth is a
decidedly sub par offering from the usually solid director. Chabrol's
best work tends to focus solely on characters - in particular the
relationship between husband and wife - but this film focuses on more
global events and the characters take a backseat. The plot focuses on a
set of black boxes that have the ability to jam radar installations.
Naturally there are people out to protect these devices and it's not
long before an American agent is killed while trying to locate them.
Despite the advice of a fellow American, his widow Shanny resolves to
get on the same lead that her husband was following prior to his death,
hunt down the black boxes and get revenge on the people that killed her
The film is rather strange as it lacks Chabrol's usual suspense and that is replaced by a sort of awkward comedy which serves only in offsetting what little tension there is since the comedy does not work. One of the major problems with this film is undoubtedly the plot line which doesn't exactly help the lack of suspense because it's really rather boring within itself and Chabrol doesn't give the audience much reason to care about the black boxes at the centre of the story. The film does have some saving graces on the style front, however, as lead actress Jean Seberg is very easy on the eyes and Chabrol's cinematography captures the locations used well. The first half of the film just sort of drones along with barely any excitement at all, but to the film's credit; things do pick up a little bit in the second half of the film as the story draws to a close. In spite of this, however, The Road to Corinth does feel more than a little bit pointless and it's clear that Chabrol didn't really have anything to say with it. Overall, this is not one of the great director's better efforts and I would not recommend it!
Claude Chabrol tried his hand repeatedly at the spy genre in the 1960s (when it was extremely popular, due to James Bond's success), but it wasn't really his forte: his style is just too cerebral and measured in its pace to generate much excitement. At least "The Road To Corinth" is an improvement over his two "Agent Tiger" efforts (which further suffered from an uncharismatic lead). In this one, Jean Seberg takes a while to appear, but she makes a fairly awesome heroine: brave, smart, sneaky, determined, and (to state the obvious) beautiful with a killer body. The attractive Greek locations, the flavorful music score and a collection of eccentric characters keep you watching, but as I said above the film is rarely exciting and its climax is more of an anticlimax. Worth seeing mostly as a diversion for Chabrol, just before he entered the most celebrated phase of his long career. **1/2 out of 4.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
MAY CONTAIN SPOILER. Claude Chabrol knew how to make a great movie and over a long career, proved as much again and again. But his considerable output was prone to occasional dips and miss-fires in between the successes. WHO'S GO THE BLACK BOX? / THE ROAD TO CORINTHE is perhaps one of his worst. Like many (most?) of his lesser works it's an international co-production without the elements that he used so well - there is no dysfunctional family, no large country house setting and no bourgeoisie to prod and chastise. Instead we have a very mid 60's staple of glamorous spies and cold war paranoia. But it doesn't work on any level. The plot is too convoluted to follow and the characters too flimsy to care about. There's no one to root for or worry about while the action itself never sparkles, there's no memorable chase sequence and little suspense.The promising cast look out of sorts; Maurice Ronet looks bewildered or bored most of the time and Jean Seberg simply hasn't got enough character to get her acting teeth into so remains cold and detached. She does look great however and provides the visual highlight wandering around her apartment in a tight neon green bra-slip just prior to what should have been the biggest shock in the film but that's somewhat telegraphed so that what you remember is Jean looking sexy and not what happens next... Sadly thats the whole film in a nutshell. Worth a look if you are a Chabrol fan simply to appreciate how good most of his other films are by comparison.
I'm quite a big fan of French director Claude Chabrol's work that I
have seen. This spy thriller is the earliest film of his that I have
encountered and, to be honest, it's also the worst one so far in my
opinion. It was one of many 60's spy films made at the time, a genre
that was at the zenith of its popularity in that decade. The story
involves NATO radar being jammed by some secret devices located
somewhere in Greece. An American agent investigating this is killed and
his wife then goes on the run while trying to solve the mystery.
Frankly, it's a very uninteresting story-line and one that unfortunately makes matters worse by playing things for laughs a lot of the time. I guess this would be okay if it was even remotely funny but the result is more of a very light-weight and silly film. It's very much a million miles away from the more austere films that are for the most part typical of Chabrol. In fact after this movie he was about to begin a run of extremely interesting serious minded thrillers which must surely constitute the best phase of his career. He was far better when he made movies that focused on psychologically complex character relationships. Like his hero Alfred Hitchcock, with Torn Curtain (1966) and Topaz (1969), he came unstuck when he made populist, straight-forward 60's spy thrillers, the results being far less interesting than his darker psychological works. The film is by no means a total washout though; after all it has exotic locations and the super chic actress Jean Seberg in the lead role. It's more overtly stylised than most Chabrol films, although admittedly his lower-key style was far better suited to him. So it's superficially quite good fun to an extent but is undoubtedly a weak film from this great director.
This is not a typical Chabrol film. It's a dull spy-comedy filmed at Greece. So I am going to spare these lines commenting on the positive aspects of the film. Jean Seberg is sexy as hell. There are parts that are funny. There are two Greek actors who in Greece have special respects (Artemis Matsas, Vasilis Diamantopoulos). Finally, Chabrol seems to like the Greek landscapes and the Greek way of living, at least the one during the 70ies. He presents the most graphical side of Athens and of the Greek Country at its best. It's a 6/10 because of these few good additions, if you are not interested in them, don't even bother watching the movie.
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