Gregory Peck is a Nobel-laureate scientist sent to China to try to recover a new enzyme that allows one to grow any crop in any climate. The operation is being conducted jointly by the Americans, the British and the Russians (!). Peck has a transmitter implanted in his head that relays his physiological conditions and his every word back to base. What he doesn’t know is that the implant is also explosive, and trigger-happy general Arthur Hill might well blow Peck’s top, as it were.
The enzyme business is pure MacGuffin, and while Peck isn’t miscast the way George Segal is in the other recent Cinema Classics spy thriller (The Quiller Memorandum), it is a bit hard to buy him in the Bond-like seduction scenes. (Be prepared to squirm in the alternate scenes when a woman removes his belt.) As a thriller, the film is more or less passable, but what makes it most interesting is the politics – here we are in 1969, and the climax has Peck racing for the safety of the Russian border. And then there’s the out-and-out contemptibility of Hill’s hard-right general. Interesting stuff. Just not classic.
The original mono and a stereo remix are here, to no one’s great surprise, I’m sure. The stereo is the usual sort of thing – utterly indiscriminate surround (voices and all), but added warmth and depth to the sound. The music sounds fine in stereo, though the age of the track is certainly apparent. No real problems with distortion, however.
The opening credits are a bit grainy and show some minor print damage. The rest of the film is much better, with minimal grain and just a bit of speckling. The colours are very nice, with rich reds. The contrasts, blacks and flesh tones are all strong. There is no visible edge enhancement, and the image is sharp and crisp.
As with The Quiller Memorandum, the commentary track is by academics Eddie Friedfeld and Lee Pfeiffer. Their approach is informal, but informative. There are two alternate scenes (basically with more nudity for the international release). The oddity is a mini-film version of the movie, which manages to condense all the essential action to 17 minutes. The theatrical trailer is accompanied by trailers for six other Cinema Classics releases. There are also some liner notes.
While hardly a stellar effort, it is a curiously interesting one. Not much more than that, however.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Alternate Scenes
- Theatrical Trailers
- Liner Notes