An unusual case of a mission forced on the IMF (cp. “The Ransom”) by immediate circumstances. Jim Phelps is held captive by mobsters to force an acquisition of damning material about to be exposed to Federal authorities. The reason is that these same mobsters were hit by the IMF at their Club Aquarius, so there’s no question about safecracking abilities, and the material is in a safe deposit box at a bank on Melrose.
Lynda Day George has a demanding task to fulfill in the vault with a lengthy display of asthma as a diversion while she injects a liquid plastic into one of the two locks and takes a positive cast. The other key belongs to a mob underling in possession of a letter from the boss inculpating himself for murder. The underling is held by Federal agents at a building where Barney arrives as elevator inspector. Two agents descend with the underling, Casey enters the elevator, it stops between floors, she becomes hysterical, Willy as a doctor is also there and calms her, and between them they take an impression of the key in the underling’s breast pocket.
Once obtained, the letter is pilfered by another underling who wants to move up in the organization. In order to free Jim, a replica of the envelope at least must be devised, and so, in this most detailed and particular of constructions (by Sam Roeca and James L. Henderson), every particular detail of this envelope must be remembered by Casey, its size, color, texture, stamp and postmark (particularly the date), the address and the typewriter font used, the color of the sealing wax.
Jim has freed himself from the wire binding his hands by vaporizing it on an electric heating coil in the air-raid shelter where a psychopath out of D.O.A. (Geoffrey Lewis) checks in on him from time to time. When all are brought here for the final rubout, Jim is prepared with a can of rummaged solvent to fling on the coils and short out the lights, producing a mêlée.
Graves opens by tracking in a daylight exterior on a tennis club waitress moving into the foreground at a slight angle, then to the table where Barney and Jim (under other names) are on vacation. This would appear to be a conscious homage to a model for Mission: Impossible, particularly its renowned credit sequence, namely I Spy. A bouquet of flowers figures prominently, and later on Melrose (outside Paramount) a rare and unexpected batch of films is advertised, The Bus Is Coming, Shangani Patrol, Return to the High Country. This latter scene works like this, Barney as elevator inspector emerges from the building (after the real one arrives and alerts the security guard, who has to be subdued), casually lights a cigarette and bends down slightly to drop it a few steps later at the agents’ car, where he swiftly attaches a small device to the left front tire. It explodes on Melrose, blowing the tire, and one of the two agents (Marc Hannibal) hails a cab driven by Barney.