Classic CIA/KGB Movies (BFS)
The Deadly Recruits (1986) C- C D C
Laser Mission (1989) C- C+ D D
The Man Outside (1968) C- C
more KGB left, an organization transformed into something else since the Soviet Union fell, you would expect BFS’ Classic CIA/KGB Movies to be a total
camp joke, but it instead offers three films that show the three kinds of
possible Spy genre thrillers.
The Deadly Recruits is the TV movie among the group,
with Terrence Stamp as a British secret agent investigating the disappearance
of Oxford students, especially noticed
after a motorcycle accident. Unfortunately,
a story that could have been interesting is far too talky for its own good and
we have seen this kind of thing done much better on TV’s The Avengers. Stamp is not
bad considering what he has to work with, while fans of the James Bond (Thunderball) and Star Wars (The Empire Strikes Back) franchises
will recognize Michael Culver.
Laser Mission is a lame vehicle that wasted the
talents of Brandon Lee as a badly written Spy and Ernest Borgnine showing up
for a paycheck and pretending to be an evil scientist. Bad action films of the 1980s, like the Rambo films, had an influence that
wrongly seeped into the Spy genre. The
Bond films even saw their most violent installment the same year with the
controversial Licence To Kill. The only problem with that film is that it
was badly edited down for a lower PG-13, while this film would not work with any cut.
Lee’s untimely death only makes this more and more painful to watch. Lee did better, including in the telefilm Kung Fu – The Movie (1986), which
should have been picked up as a series.
Too bad Hollywood picked up on Lee too late. Like father, like son.
The Man Outside is the big surprise and a lost
gem of the genre, involving some of the strongest talent the genre ever
saw. Van Heflin is great in one of his
later roles as fallen CIA agent Bill MacLean, who is suddenly called back when
a dirty operation involving the Russians because there is more at stake than he
is being told. He gets a sense of this
and decides to jump out of the cold and back into the dirt with a potential
defector and a beautiful young woman.
Those who loved the Michael Caine/Harry Palmer film The Ipcress File, but were less satisfied with follow-ups Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain, will say that this
is more like it. Peter Vaughn is an evil
head Eastern Bloc baddie, two time Bond veterans Charles Gray (doing this just
after You Only Live Twice (1967) and
due to later appear in Diamonds Are
Forever) and Bill Nagy are featured in great roles, while the late Paul
Maxwell (most familiar to new audiences from James Cameron’s 1986 surprise Aliens), Ronnie Barker (TV’s The Avengers) and Willoughby Gray are
among an exceptionally strong cast.
Samuel Gallu had just finished Theatre
of Death with Christopher Lee and Julian Glover, so he was in great
form. He co-wrote the screenplay
adaptation of the Gene Stackleborg novel with two men who helped build the Spy
genre in the 1960s. Julian Bond created
the original 1960 British TV series Police
Surgeon, which quickly evolved into The
Avengers. Roger Marshall wrote some
of the great later shows in the mid-to-late 1960s, so that is some serious writing
talent behind this film.
on all the films here rank below average.
Sadly, though The Man Outside
was shot in Techniscope by the brilliant cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, B.S.C.
just coming off of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001:
A Space Odyssey (doing incidental work, though he was the main cameraman on
Kubrick’s previous Dr. Strangelove
in 1965). The original print were
produced in beautiful dye-transfer three-strip Technicolor (common practice for
Techniscope and Technirama productions), but this print is a pan & scan
Eastmancolor print going bad. The opening
credits are in unsqueezed scope that you could un-stretch to its 2.35 X 1
ration on a 16 X 9 screen, but the definition is also poor. Group W Westinghouse was a co-producer of
this British film that was issued by Allied Artists in the United States.
Westinghouse has since been consumed by the CBS/Viacom/Paramount merger,
Allied Artists films often get issued by Warner Bros. or Disney/Miramax. Give or take a British owner of the film,
could one of these companies please find the negative, restore and reissue this
film? And why are the end credits French
before the film suddenly cuts off on this print? Peter Mullins’ Art Direction deserves to be
seen in full scope as well.
Digital 2.0 is various, but the newer the sound, the poorer the film and
story. Some awful stereo with a surround
–like mix (from dreadful Ultra Stereo gone very wrong) is on Laser Mission. Deadly
Recruits was clear, more modern mono, while The Man Outside is also mono from the film’s optical mono a few
generations down. Richard Arnell did not
do too many feature film scores, but this one is very good.
is the rare case where you have to buy all three films to get the good one, but
this DVD is so cheap, it is worth it.
All Spy fans should have this copy of The Man Outside until a better one comes along.
- Nicholas Sheffo