Julie Andrews plays the fiancée and assistant to American scientist Paul Newman, whom she discovers might be defecting to the Russians. Wolfgang Kieling is Gromek, Newman’s assigned bodyguard, who has a fascination with American slang. Gisela Fischer is also impressive in the small role of Dr. Koska, one of Newman’s ‘comrades’. Lila Kedrova turns up late as a curious Polish Countess looking for a ‘sponsor’ so she can get into America.
1966 Alfred Hitchcock (“Psycho”, “Shadow of a Doubt”, “Sabotage”) film is easily one of his weakest, a surprisingly dull, dour spy film that seems so impersonal compared to his great films like “Strangers on a Train”, “Vertigo”, or “Spellbound”. The leads are miscast; Newman might have often played unlikeable characters, but they’re usually more interesting characters (he’s actually not in the film enough, if you ask me), and his disinterest in the project (and perhaps in the director, if rumour has it correctly) shows here. A much better choice would have been someone like James Coburn or Joseph Cotten. Maybe Burt Lancaster or even Steve McQueen who could play cold-fishes very well and probably wouldn’t show the disdain for the material that Newman does here. Andrews, meanwhile, just plain shits me as an actress and sexy, she ain’t. Seeing the asexual actress and Newman in bed is liking watching your maths teacher doing it- she’s just so proper, and ever-so pleasant, and with perfect elocution. I don’t think of myself as a misogynist nor a violent man, but so help me, there were times here I just wanted to wring her neck. Or maybe just give her a spoonful of arsenic.
But in the end it’s the dull story and indifferent direction that sink this admittedly nice-looking film. Kedrova is a little hammy in what amounts to a mere cameo that grinds the film to a halt near the end, and by then I was way past the point of giving a fuck. Kieling’s and Fischer’s lively performances and an infamously gruelling, sloppy and drawn-out murder sequence (despite “Frenzy” doing it better) are the only standouts here. The latter is indeed the only moment where it appears Hitch is awake at the helm (his cute cameo not withstanding- one of his best, by the way) and even Newman is drawn out of his slumber for it. The screenplay is by Brian Moore, from his story. Subpar John Addison (“Tom Jones”, “The Entertainer”) score is another underwhelming aspect of this very forgettable film.