If the film described by the German title above, "Tüchtigen gehört die Welt, Den" (which IMDB also cites as "The Upper Crust") is the one I am identifying with a great Frank Gorshin vehicle then please do give this one a look, all you Gorshin fans. I think its his best role.
I am not sure why the film has stayed with me for so long after one half-distracted viewing on a small kitchen tv set. Its an otherwise unremarkable little thriller. For years I assumed this film had a title like "The Blue Danube" because of the evocative scenery of Vienna that forms the graceful environment for this thriller.
The flick is very reminiscent of another favourite of mine called "End of the Game" but is less energetic and more subdued by far. Still, both of these films have a wistful, sombre atmosphere; a soft, rainy, European cinematic style. Check out the opening sequence of "The Eiger Sanction" if you need another example. There are others as well from this late 70's era which come to mind.
Gorshin steals the film as the sole English speaking character in this Austrian production. His performance as a cowboy-like American assassin in Austria is so idiosyncratic that it casts the rest of this film in shadow--but nevermind that. He's perfect as the seedy, sneaker-wearing, trenchcoat-clad assassin-for-hire who has been brought to Austria by the ruthless participants in some kind of vague bureaucratic cover-up relating to city politics. The contrast of his twangy American accent, his direct and even snide manner, and his dry sarcasm among the refined and delicate city of Vienna is really something to savor.
For once Gorshin finds himself in a production which makes use of his subtle dynamic, dexterity. There is no wildness, no extravagance; he is at all times controlled and restrained. His role brings to mind other typecast performers who do an about-face in a single role: like Jerry Lewis in "The King of Comedy".
In the film, as the police first discover and then begin unravelling the conspiracy, Gorshin arrives in Vienna and begins the methodical preparations for his "hit", in a sort of 98-cent-version of "The Day of the Jackal". Its low-key and low-budget all the way, but its engrossing just the same. The editing is nimble and the pace moves along nicely, emphasizing Gorshin's personality rather than his tools. Its wonderful to see him nimbly dodging the authorities throughout the film; he is the ultimate fringe dweller. That wizened, crusty face of is more expressive than many others that might have filled this role. You can forget about the real plot in this film; just watch Gorshin.
At one point, I recall, Gorshin is picked up by some gendarmes who have confused him for the suspect in a petty theft; but he manages to talk his way out of it without revealing his real identity and without the detective squad realizing the nature of his part in the conspiracy. Its a wry and adroit bit of work. But theres more: Gorshin cleverly chooses to hide out with a single girl in her apartment while the police scour the city for him.
The really memorable 'hook' of this movie is this unusual relationship Gorshin strikes up with this random Viennese woman, very much like what occurs in "Three Days of the Condor", but on a much smaller scale of course. The entire relationship begins, matures, and concludes within half a dozen scenes and as many lines of dialogue. What evolves between the two is gently, quietly handled and Gorshin never missteps.
At first the girl--a somewhat lonely woman in her thirties, a mousy office worker of some sort--is duly terrified; obviously apprehensive at the prospect of being raped or worse during Gorshin's ruthless invasion of her privacy. She calms only as he begins to reveal a firm but gentle consideration and for a few days, they share a strictly platonic, forced period of intimacy. It becomes clear that both of them lead solitary lives and that this strange situation has emotional richness for each individual.
At one crucial point, however, she decides to cooperate with Gorshin without being forced. When Gorshin departs, never having violated her in any way during his stay (although it was well within his power to do so) the woman feels an obvious loss when she is once more left on her own. The assassin is all business, but Gorshin too shows the play of these subtle emotions in his character and surprises us with the presentation of these depths in what is, on the surface, just a cold-blooded killer for pay. He is perfect.
Please do enjoy this film when you are tired of blockbusters and the overpowering hype of big name stars and big movie budgets. These little films from the late 70s, with or without a European studio setting, are often overlooked gems.
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