The Serpent (1973) Poster


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European co-production with international cast well written, produced and directed by Henry Verneuil
ma-cortes6 November 2009
Prototypical Cold War thriller deals about an aging soviet spy named Vlassov (here Yul Brynner plays Russian Colonel Alexei Vlassov , as such, Brynner plays a character of his own nationality ; Brynner's full birth name was Yuli Borisovich Bryner) who attempts to defect the East world . The CIA chief named Allan Davies (Henry Fonda) interrogates him, using polygrapher (interrogator played by Robert Alda), computer programming , and other means . Then Davies must decide if he's saying the truth .

This complex espionage picture is packed with thrills, suspense, tension and extraordinary performances . This movie was made and released about two years after its source French novel "The Thirteenth Who Committed Suicide" by Pierre Nord was first published in 1971 . Good spy movie , in fact the Spy agencies featured in this film include the CIA, KGB, Mi6 and the West German intelligence service . It's a slow moving spy-movie with emphasis on de-glamorizing espionage . Sensational acting by two big star names, Yul Brynner as spy who defects with a fistful of important documents and Henry Fonda as chief who must discover the truth . Strong secondary cast with Dirk Bogarde, Farley Granger, Philippe Noiret, gorgeous Virna Lisi and several others . Interesting and thrilling screenplay by the same producer and director Henry Verneuil . Atmospheric musical composed by Ennio Morricone and conducted by Bruno Nicolai . Superbyly realistic and adequate cinematography by Claude Renoir .

The picture was splendidly directed by Henry Verneuil, a Turkish director working in France from the 40s . Although not a director of great reputation among the critics, his movies have almost all been aimed squarely at the commercial market. Verneuil is an expert on heist-genre such as he proved in ¨The Sicilians clan(68)¨ with Jean Gabin and Alain Delon, ¨The burglars(1971)¨ with Omar Shariff and Jean Paul Belmondo , furthermore on Warlike genre : ¨Weekend at Dunkirk¨ and ¨The 25th hour¨, espionage as ¨ Night flight from Moscow¨ and even directed one Western : ¨Guns of San Sebastian¨ (68). He seemed to have dropped out of the film-making after 1976, but in 1981 unexpectedly reappeared with yet another of his caper film : ¨Thousand millions of dollars¨. Rating : Acceptable and passable, a must see for French cinema lovers and Fonda and Bryner fans
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Intelligent and well made spy film
Milan22 October 2011
I had no doubt that this effort from prolific French director Henry Verneuil ("Le Clan Des Siciliens","Mélodie En Sous-Sol",and terrific "I... comme Icare)", will be better than your usual cold war spy thriller. This is a sort of movie that mature film fan expects to see, no James Bond nonsense, no Russians that only speak broken English, no Russians with M16 rifles and ridiculous plots. This movie rings true, even 60's and 70's strongmen such as Yul Brynner is very good and very plausible as Soviet KGB colonel Alexei Vlassov, and the supporting cast of greats: Henry Fonda, Dirk Bogarde and Philippe Noiret, wee the web of high echelon government espionage, that keeps viewer guessing to the end. French title "Le Serpent" is much better than unfortunate English one ("Night flight from Moscow),that has nothing to do with plot whatsoever. Le Serpent or the serpent is a snake in the grass that strikes whenever it feels threatened. It's poison is deadly and quick, but ultimately it has to shed skin and reveal it's trail. Look for this great film if you're a fan of intelligent spy films. Satisfaction is guaranteed.
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Too Good To Be True
bkoganbing1 June 2008
Talk about international cast, this French film Le Serpent boasts players from America, The United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Russia. It's an espionage story with Yul Brynner as a high ranking KGB colonel defecting to the west and bringing a whole lot of goodies with him.

What Brynner is bringing to CIA chief Henry Fonda is a list of fifth columnists who've been operating for years in the west in all the western allied countries. A lot of deaths start occurring in all these countries as problems are dealt with one way or another.

Of course this information wreaks havoc with the intelligence services of the west. Which just might have been the desired Soviet intention.

In this cast the best performance hands down is that of Dirk Bogarde as a Kim Philby like MI5 man. Somebody's had their eye on him for a long time.

Spying can be a dirty business and Le Serpent certainly shows the seamier side of it. If you're looking for James Bond like heroics this isn't your film.

Le Serpent is in the tradition of the Richard Burton classic The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Not as good but better than a whole lot of stuff these old timers were appearing in during the Seventies.
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Enjoyable espionage thriller with a great international cast
Mark Pizzey23 November 2005
Finally I was able to see the thriller The Serpent on DVD under a new but poor title NIGHT TRAIN FROM MOSCOW (why this has been changed I don't know).

Any film that has Yul Brynner, Henry Fonda & Dirk Bogarde has to be worth watching but this is rarely shown on TV so I was pleased to find the recent Pathfinder DVD release. The film is very much in the trend of your typical spy drama from the sixties (see The Spy who came in from the Cold and The Quiller Memorandum) despite being made in 1973.

Brynner is Vlassov a valuable KGB agent who defects on the condition he supplies the CIA with information regarding Double Agents operating in the West. Question: Is he telling the truth or is he himself another carefully placed spy? It's up to CIA head Henry Fonda with the help of British Intelligence Representative Dirk Bogarde to determine this.

Phillipe Noiret, Farley Granger, Robert Alda (father of Alan) and Virna Lisi provide the support in an intriguing thriller. Although some of the plot twists are predictable and there's a lengthy absence of the 3 main protagonists in the second act, the pace is just right as opposed to other Bond alternative spy dramas where slow pacing and no action result in boredom.

Surprising therefore that The Serpent isn't more widely known as it's a gem of a thriller with a good ending.
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Language Wasn't A Problem
lburriss21 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I'm not sure what problem viewers are having with the multiple languages. My DVD player lets me turn on an English-only version. No subtitles needed.

I had been looking for this movie since I first saw it in 1973, and finally stumbled across it a couple of years ago. The only things I remembered was that it was a movie about a "mole," the scene where the picture of Mt. Ararat was switched, and the spy exchange at the end.

This isn't the most action-packed spy movie around, and certainly isn't in the mold of '60s and '70s James Bond and 007. But in many ways it is the way espionage is really done: slow and meticulous. The pacing sort of reminds me of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
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Pharaoh/King of Siam represented his native country only once
Lee Eisenberg13 January 2010
The convoluted spy movie "Le serpent" ("Night Flight to Moscow" in English) features Yul Brynner as a Soviet colonel who defects to the United States, claiming that he has info about an assassination network. Much of the movie focuses on the intelligence communities in different countries investigating what he said. This probably would have been easier to watch in the cinema, since you need to know when to have subtitles turned on: they suddenly start speaking different languages at random times.

It's not a great movie, but worth seeing. Just understand that this is a complicated one; no James Bond stuff here. Also starring Henry Fonda, Dirk Bogarde, Farley Granger, Philippe Noiret and Virna Lisi.
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Difficult to follow with very little action
ksneath4 December 2008
For those of you expecting an edge-of-your-seat nail-biter with great vehicles for two big Hollywood stars -- I'm sorry, you won't find it in this movie.

This has to be one of the oddest films I've ever seen. The biggest reason is because of the language(s) of the film. I spent quite some time trying to figure out if this film was supposed to be an English, French or even German speaking film. I finally turned on the English subtitles about 20 minutes through after it became clear that I needed to understand what the frenchies were saying to follow the film at all.

Activities take place in France, Germany, Britan and the U.S., and wherever we go pretty much everyone just speaks their native language. I'd say about half the film is French, half English, with a few misc. languages probably thrown in there somewhere. Understanding that the film itself has no subtitles (just included on DVD) makes this rather weird, unless of course, you're fluent in both languages. To make it even weirder, there are some places where English (instead of French) was obviously dubbed in on the film! I don't have a clue what they were thinking... even if it was not the original print. It really made no sense whatsoever.

The film's direction is definitely not in the traditional Hollywood style, but beyond that, I found it pretty difficult to follow. We follow a certain group of individuals for a while, then jump to a different group, then a different group, some in France, some in the US, etc. None of the characters are really developed very well. Sometimes you feel like you're watching a thriller, sometimes a docu-drama.

This is a spy film, yet there is nothing mentioned about the kind of spies they are, what secrets they might be stealing, what the dangers are, etc. -- just that they are Russian spies. I guess this is all we're supposed to care about. Also, this has to be the slowest-moving spy movie I've ever seen. The action and excitement is very, very minimal. This might have been all right had the plot and characters been engaging and fascinating, but unfortunately they just weren't.

It's not the worst movie ever, but it definitely is pretty strange language wise, and just not very interesting.
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Advanced international espionage with a lot of construction and intricacies with "suicides" all over.
clanciai20 May 2017
Evidently inspired by the Kim Philby case, and Dirk Bogarde would have made the perfect Kim Philby - his character and role here immediately makes you think of Philby.

In the spy world no one is what he appears to be, everyone is lying as convincingly as possible, and if they are convincing enough they have a chance of getting away with it, but these chances grow inevitably slimmer the longer they stay on as fakers. That is about the sense morale of this film, where everyone acts suspiciously from beginning to end, even Henry Fonda, who thinks he knows everything but is duped nonetheless. Philippe Noiret makes the most honest part, he is under suspicion from the beginning and seems to have accepted from the beginning to be a chronic suspect. Yul Brynner is the most convincing of all and the greatest cheat of all. The ladies are suave enough, especially Virna Lisi representing Italy in this international party, while they have very little to say, except in France - the only tender scene is what makes Philippe Noiret the most sympathetic in the cast.

This is not a thriller or any action film but almost callous in its scientific representation of an intricate kettle of spies. It tries to hit a documentary character and almost succeeds, but the story is not very credible. Kim Philby was a true story indeed, and a lot of damage he did, but here the same kind of case is exaggerated into almost absurdity. It gets too technical, and all the international actors can't save its lack of blood and humanity. It's interesting but not more than that, and afterwards you shrug your shoulders and are satisfied with not having to see it again.
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Titanic !
elshikh424 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
At that era, there were a lot of big production movies with a lot of international stars, something to challenge the mighty power of television back then, and the strange mood of films that hit the genres' formulas in the groins !

Maybe someday I'll give you a list of this kind of movies as it ended up mostly being flops, real proud turkeys, and another huge titanics.

Here, it fulfilled all the previous conditions, yet the ambition was just well meaning. Actually after the astonishing (Z - 1969) the term "political thriller" became encouraging. 4 years later (Night Flight from Moscow) tries to make something balanced between the serious satire (the cold war is never over despite any detente), and the commercial sense of suspense, to achieve eventually mediocre work both ways. It could've been genuinely one great espionage movie where all the parties enjoying deceiving each others, but the final result was that tasteless and a little bit embarrassing putting in mind the big names.

It's frigid, and that's strange when you look into the history of its director (Henri Verneuil) !, it's silly like a noir movie where all the killings and all the killers are complicatedly successive, it's idiot when you examine the evidences that finally exposed the Russians' real trick.. You've got to think whether the whole Russian intelligence is so dumb? Or the real dumb ones are whom want to convince you with some things as low as this ?!

It's, though, a fest of stars, one paranoiac movie, and an early time to launch a twist that surprising ..I think, despite some weakness, it was unpredictable and even more, considering the year of production, as since the 2000s, this became ordinary fashion in movies.

It deserves a view; for all the aforementioned and for the wicked sentence that (Yul Brynner) said to his watchers through the camera, plus the way he said it.
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