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|Index||17 reviews in total|
Aside from this being one of Voigt's finest acting performances, this film has such a compellingly haunting quality, that I haven't been able to get it out of my mind since seeing on the local PBS TV station about 15 years ago.
It's a must see for film noir and Hitchcock fans. I found it emotionally gripping much in the same way as did Orson Welles 3rd Man.
My wife & I saw this as the second feature at a drive-in (yes, that long ago) and it has stayed with us long after we've forgotten the main feature that night. A marvelous game of cat & mouse between two chess-masters, with Voight as their pawn. We've looked for it on television, on tape and on DVD ever since, hoping to decide if it was as impressive as we thought. Schell's direction is superb, building and maintaining a constant tension throughout. The actors performances are, well, what you'd expect from these actors at the top of their game. Beginning with two young men circa WWII, one betting the other that he can get away with a murder, The End of the Game ranks with the best of Le Carre's work in its examination of a master detective's plot to finally catch his bete noir in a crime.
Martin Ritt is absolutely spellbinding. He embodies one of the most unforgettable men I have ever met on the screen. It is a neat little thriller, and Shaw is fine as the would-be super-villain, but it is Ritt that still haunts my thoughts and dreams years after my three viewings of this film; I would love to get it on tape.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fans of foreign films in general may get more satisfaction out of this movie than those who are accustomed to more standard mystery movies. Even though the cast all speak English and it was released in English, it has a very European sensibility with the type of subtle humor and quirky idiosyncrasy rarely found in mainstream American films. Ritt plays a Swiss police detective who is bound and determined to bring down Shaw, a man who has led a life of crime, and, in particular, committed a murder before Ritt's eyes 30 years prior for which he was never prosecuted. Ritt's partner is slain in the process and he is assigned a new partner (Voight) whose job it is to solve the murder of the previous partner and finally pin down Shaw for his various crimes. Bisset plays the slain man's girlfriend who also draws the interest of Voight. While the often twisty pieces of the mystery are put together, Ritt provides a strong character study of a man who is, himself, close to death, yet longs to fulfill his mission before he peters out. The film has many memorable attributes, none more so than the appearance of Sutherland as the dead detective. He never plays the character while alive! Aside from a few photos, he is only shown rocking back and forth (in a darkly humorous way) as his body is being brought into town from the murder scene. Many of the scenes in the film have a surreal feeling and are loaded with strange little touches that are more likely to be found in French or German films. Ritt, in a rare acting appearance, gives a committed and textured performance. Voight is also strong, though his sometimes manic, wide-eyed portrayal may not be everyone's cup of tea. Bisset is always lovely to watch and she has a few decent scenes, but mostly she's window dressing in a characterization that ends up appearing pretty sleazy. Shaw has the customary amount of authority and slickness that aided him in parts of this kind throughout his career. All of these folks do a solid job of acting, but oddly, none of them have accents that even remotely match the nationality of their characters. Voight attempts the faintest accent, but he and Ritt are clearly American in their delivery. Shaw is obviously British and Bisset makes no effort in the slightest to suggest the Irishness of her character, speaking in her usual clipped UK accent. Ferzetti, an Italian, only adds to this as a Swiss police chief. The resolution of the mystery isn't all that difficult to piece together, though the reaching of it does have some moments of interest. The whole film tends to be uneven, but it's rarely uninteresting. Voight has a somewhat lengthy nude scene that would be typical for many French actors, but unusual for Americans, in which he wears only some grey socks and one sleeve from his shirt. Frontal nudity is partially shown for a couple of frames. It adds up to a movie with English-speaking actors, but with strong European sensibilities and the combination may not work for all viewers.
A very obscure thriller - both in the sense that it's very hard to find (I actually saw what seemed to be the imported British version, under the title "Deception"; the print was in terrible condition), and also in the sense that it has a very murky structure and characters with motivations that are pretty hard to understand, unless perhaps you've read the book. Some good twists and interesting performances (especially by Robert Shaw as the politically powerful villain)....but hold off watching it until you come across a decent print. (**1/2)
I saw the movie a long time ago, in a class in (German) highschool. I remember being mesmerized by the book for which I can not find a translation in English. It's one of the greatest whodunits of all movie history. Baerlach the old Police Kommissaire has one more year to live due to illness just when a policeman is found dead on a country road near his native Swiss town. Baerlach lets his over-eager deputy Tschanz handle the investigation, knowing full well it will lead Tschanz to an old nemesis of Baerlach's, a criminal that he could never get his hands on. The investigations seem to be unsuccessful, but Baerlach knows something that Tschanz doesn't, and has a plan.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At the very opening, we see a Swiss police officer stop beside a parked
car on a hillside. The officer opens the door. There is a corpse inside
with a bullet hole in his temple.
So what does the policeman do? Does he go back to his own car and radio headquarters to report a homicide? Does the police force descend upon the crime scene, seal it off with tape to preserve its integrity, and examine the ground and take photos of the body? No. No, the policeman gets into the dead man's car, starts it up, and drives into town with the corpse nodding beside him. A woman in a passing car is horrified by the sight of the bloody head, so the officer tries to perch his own police cap atop the corpse. The attempt is unsuccessful and the body jiggles and collapses against the dash.
Now that's a weird opening for a murder mystery but then this film is something outré from beginning to end. The story, by the well-known Swiss author, Friedrich Durrenmatt, involves no more than the usual number of convolutions and winds up with a surprise ending. But the direction is by Max Schell, a highly underrated actor, who's done some enterprising work as a director too.
He opts for a considerably stylized approach to the material. "I think I'm going to croak," groans the police commissioner (Martin Ritt, also an actor/director), sounding more like a man complaining of a hangover. "Well, I hope you feel better!" chirps his assistant, John Voight, in a completely anomalous, cheery tone of voice.
Ritt's commissioner really is ill and is schedule for an operation in a short while that may give him an extra year of life. A consequence of his illness is that he can't eat anything or drink any stimulating fluids. Throughout the film, maddeningly, others keep offering him schnapps or a piece of cake, all of which he must refuse until the reveal at the end, when he solves the case and, with gusto, stuffs himself full of soup, wurst, sauerkraut, and huge wedges of Emmenthaler cheese.
But, as I say, there are unexpected incidental touches in almost every scene. The initial corpse turns out to be that of another police officer. And we see perhaps two dozen people dressed in dark clothes standing around in the autumnal foliage while someone reads over the casket and a brass band plays a lament. But the threnody take on a subtle, more lively lilt. Soon, some of the mourners are tapping their feet. Then a row of four or five dark figures begin bobbing slightly up and down to the tune, by Ennio Moriconne out of Nino Rota.
And that's nothing. An icy rain begins to fall. The mourners are quickly drenched and look as if they're about to freeze. And two more figures come literally dancing down the slope to drop a wreath on the coffin before dancing away. The wreath has the wrong name on it, but as it turns out, the cadaver was undercover and had two identities and whoever ordered the wreath got them mixed up. And so it goes.
Sometimes Schell takes the story seriously. There are several shooting deaths. (Only one of them is turned into a semi-joke.) Jacqueline Bissett has the role of the girl who belongs to three men, the evil and egotistical villain Robert Shaw, the corpse, and John Voight's ever-smiling policeman. I can't figure out just what it is that informs Bissett's beauty, what it is that brings her so close to feminine perfection. Certainly her eyes have something to do with it. They slant at an ideal dihedral and they're sometimes blue, sometimes the color of a light turmeric, and as we all know, the eyes are the windows of the occiput. She has a generous bosom but I discount that.
Martin Ritt is surprisingly effective as the worn-out, cynical, old cop. His features are over-sized, as are his black-rimmed glasses, and he has quadruple chins, smokes cigars, and his clothes are as shabby as his carefully cluttered apartment. Voight is good too, but then he always is.
As a murder mystery, this is pretty sloppy work. As a thing unto itself, it's not at all bad.
Madonna, it is always cold, foggy, and cloudy in Bern, hardly a healthy place to live. No wonder the commissioner is ill.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This very artsy movie has within it the elements of a fine noir thriller, but stumbles over its own excesses. First the good news: there are three superb performances here. Martin Ritt (best known as director of "Norma Rae","Hud", "Sounder", "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold", and many others), is superb as the weary but guileful old detective out to settle a score. So is Jon Voight as his newly assigned assistant; Voight's performance right from the beginning suggests he is a seriously unbalanced character and makes much of the remaining action plausible. Though dismissed by some reviewers as bad acting, this really was the only way to make this character work. Finally, Robert Shaw is the bloodless villain, recreating essentially the same character as he did the previous year in "The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three." Now for the bad news: the plot is murky and the ending illogical; the direction and cinematography are grotesque (apparently there is more fog in Switzerland than London and Kodak had a special on grainy film); and the score is so whimsical that it suggests a parody of the genre. Best subtle scene: after Martin Ritt's character is apparently mauled by the Shaw character's guard dog, he (out of everyone's sight) removes a protective shield he had under his coat. That's a first clue that the old detective is up to something.
A countryside cop discovers the corpse sitting behind the wheel of a
car, having been killed with a shot to the head and decides to cart the
body off to the next village. It turns out the corpse (Sutherland) was
policeman, Lt. Schmied, assistant of commissioner Baerlach (Ritt), a
grizzled veteran, suffering from a stomach disease that will likely
kill him within a year. Baerlach investigates and demands a new
assistant: young, ambitious policeman Tschanz (Voight). They discover
that Schmied had worked undercover, seemingly on in own account, and
had investigated a certain Gastmann (Shaw), an ominous "businessman"
who was connections with high-ranking politicians and officials. What
ensues is a cat and mouse game, which involves not only the current
case but a murder that took place decades ago, a bet between two
friends, a self-appointed judge and his chosen hangman.
I have to admit that Friedrich Dürrenmatts novel "The Judge and his hangman" is among my personal favorites, which I have read countless times (and still enjoy occasionally in the form of an audio-book). As far as adaptations go, Maximilian Schell has it spot on however, I can understand how people who are not familiar with the novel will find the film awkward, sometimes strangely timed or even sketchy.
It is not that Schell is a bad director, but that he had decided to stay very close to the novel: Dürrenmatt (who had a small part as a quirky novelist) is an exceptional writer, who doesn't care much for genres or conventions. "The Judge and his hangman" is not just a mere crime-story but a crime-story that's also a moral play, a pitch-black comedy and a social commentary. In essence it's about the past (or fate, if you want) catching up on people, even if it may be at the end of their lives.
Ritt as disillusioned policeman with a past, often reminding off a Swiss Columbo, Shaw as nihilistic, cynic master-criminal and Voight playing his role (very close to the novel) as a man-child with cherub face that a grandmother would probably like to pinch but, like the rest of the characters, seems to have his own secret agenda; the cast is altogether excellent. Bisset, though very pleasant to behold, seems a little out of place (at least in the context of the novel, where her character plays a minor role at best) but Schell does a good job incorporating her into the story. Not to forget: Donald Sutherland must have had a field-day playing the most animated corpse since "Weekend at Bernie's". Story and performances are topped off by an excellent soundtrack of Ennio Morricone. "Once you've heard this music, it will never leave you completely", comments one of the figure on a marching band. I can only agree: I've had the haunting score creep up in my head ever so often for the past 30 years.
A final word of advice: I have only watched the original version once and find it rather irritating or unfitting to hear the characters talk in English. In the German synchronization the actors (with the exceptions of Shaw and Bisset) are given throaty Swiss accents, which are way more "authentic".
If you expect a run-of-the-mill who's dunnit, you might end up disappointed but as far as adaptations go, few have gotten as close to the source material as "End of the Game" (a title which is true, but I still prefer to call the film "The Judge and his hangman").
I have described the opening scene of TEOTG to dozens of people over
the years, and it always provokes a terrific reaction.
A consummate cat & mouse story of two strong wills, a tooth-achingly gorgeous woman, and a dead body. Shaw is in his usual brilliant form. Ritt's performance is extraordinary. Voight is believable and compelling. Bisset is spectacular to watch. Sutherland must have had fun playing the corpse. Directed by Maximilian Schell, and originally titled Der Richter und sein Henker and released in W Germany in 1978 (?), TEOTG became (and remains) my definitive detective mystery.
Be sure you get the full-length version in the language that you want. You won't regret renting or buying this classic film.
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