George Segal is assigned by spymaster Alec Guinness to find the base of a group of neo-Nazis in Berlin. Head bad guy Max Von Sydow hopes to pry information out of Segal, specifically where the base of the good-guy spies (the precise organization is vague) is located. Segal’s only help is a schoolteacher (Senta Berger) with whom he begins an affair. George Sanders turns up in a couple of scenes for no particular reason.
The script is by Harold Pinter – yes, THAT Harold Pinter, and i…s strengths like in the very piquant dialogue, as one might expect. As a thriller, though, it is not without its problems. Segal is horrifically miscast, playing his barely competent agent as though this were a light comedy, and he alternately radiates repulsive smarm and barely motivated grumpiness. As well, the villains don’t seem to have much of a plan, other than hanging out in their base, looking well pleased with themselves. All this obsession about “bases” recalls nothing so much as two groups of little boys headquartered in rival tree forts. Nice use of locations, and the climax is quite effective, but Segal fatally torpedoes the project.
The only option here is the original mono. There is a very faint hiss audible in some of the silences, but there is no distortion on either the dialogue or the score (for what its worth, the vintage of the film is 1966). All in all, a clean, efficient audio track, and a stereo remix is not missed.
By and large, the picture quality is very solid. The colours are excellent, with very nice contrasts, blacks and flesh tones. There is no grain, and though there is some minor edge enhancement visible now and then, it is barely noticeable. The print has next to no damage (though a hair does show up on the film at one point), but there is a slight flicker, which is sometimes just discernible enough to be a bit irritating.
The commentary track by academic colleagues Eddie Friedfeld and Lee Pfeiffer is light-hearted and jokey, but still does a good job of situating the film in its generic and historical context. The theatrical trailer is joined by trailers for six other Cinema Classics releases.
Though this is a definite step up from the rather dire Michael Caine releases, I’m still not sure this quite counts as a “Cinema Classic.” Interesting, though.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Theatrical Trailers