fine Eurospy action with David Janssen in one of his final roles
To my knowledge, the late, great David Janssen made two European crime films in the 1970s: THE SWISS CONSPIRACY (which I saw theatrically back when it was originally released, and which is the lesser of the two), and this one, titled COVERT ACTION for the English language market. Janssen plays an ex-CIA agent who has become an author, writing both non-fiction exposes (Phillip Agee was in the news at this time) and fiction spy novels. The CIA is on his case, in the person of Arthur Kennedy, CIA chief in Athens, where Janssen is staying. Janssen is pursuing a case that interests him, while dodging the traps set for him by Kennedy (and NOT dodging them too--the scenes where he is captured by the CIA and sent in for deprogramming are harrowing in the extreme!), and trying to help Maurizio Merli, a former colleague with personal problems. Janssen also is having an affair with a lovely lady (of course!). David Janssen was the rare individual to have not one, not two, but THREE excellent TV series under his belt: RICHARD DIAMOND, THE FUGITIVE, and O'HARA: UNITED STATES TREASURY. A brooding, understated actor, he is perfect for this role and generates a real intensity and depth. Like Charles Bronson, he is able to communicate pain through his eyes, and he generates a lot of audience empathy. Director Romolo Guerrieri (uncle of Italian crime master Enzo Castellari) worked in peplum, spaghetti westerns, crime films, and Franco and Ciccio comedies as a writer and director and assistant director and second unit director before making this film, and he has a great eye, making fine use of the Greek location shooting, both the mean streets of the city and beautiful seascapes. For fans of European crime and spy films, this is a must-see, and it should also interest any David Janssen fans out there. I've loaned this video to a number of friends over the years, and everyone has enjoyed it, singling out Janssen's unique screen presence and happy to have another example of his work available. Let's hope someone decides to do a letterboxed DVD of this soon.
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