The conflict with the rear echelon hampers U.S. Navy operations in the Solomons, this figurative representation culminates in the splitting of Lt. Kennedy’s boat amidships.
No-one may have noticed what a superb, masterful film this is. Eastwood exacerbates the situation into the war game of Heartbreak Ridge, but critics have been mindful of the politico and not the Navy hero.
Martinson is extremely fortunate in this character, whose arrival at Tulagi prefigures Patton’s derelict command in Schaffner’s film.
The advertising war between Canada Dry (“America’s Going Dry... Canada Dry!”) and Schweppes (“Schweppervescence!”, Commodore Schweppes used to say) is recounted mythically in one of the greatest masterpieces of the screenwriter’s art, which universalizes the Caped Crusader by comic metempsychosis so that each member of the audience feels the same thrills of pleasure every schoolboy knows reading the great comic book. The New World Order of criminals zaps the UN, is gradually undone by Batman & Robin, and finally dispatched with a dollop of felix culpa.
What Commodore Schmidlapp says in his false captivity is, “gives me a jolly good chance to get caught up on my Dickens.” When Bruce Wayne and Kitka are kidnapped, the newspaper sub-headline reads, “Attractive Girl Friend Seized in Brazen Snatch”. In what is perhaps the most beautiful line the script has to offer, Robin says, “holy bikini, that was close!” Batman magnetized by the illegal projection buoy says, “it’s got us—by the metallic objects—in our utility belts!”
It will be seen that the script is the prime mover, a relation of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Pinter’s Trouble in the Works, and the Collected Works of Comden & Green. This is principally carried by the fiercely able cast, but Martinson joins in from time to time with a serene deadpan (Batman crossing the Batcave after Bruce Wayne’s meeting with Kitka passes a “Lunar Scanning Screen” on his way to Robin’s reading of the Riddler’s “what’s yellow and writes?”—a typically Orphic production). Only twice does he almost give the film away, once in a one-second shot of the Dynamic Duo dashing through a New York crosswalk on a very busy day, and again during the final fight scene on Penguin’s submarine (“yo-ho!”, says its crew), when the beauty of the weather threatens to turn the thing into Modesty Blaise (to Martinson’s credit, Neil Hamilton among others exercises a formidable discipline to keep a straight face).
The cast transforms by its zeal and skill Semple’s screenplay effectively back into comic strip style at the other end of the spectrum deployed in the credits.
The adventures of a dental assistant and competition skydiver from La Jolla, called upon to introduce herself into a Red Chinese plot after the Fire Dragon, a nuclear trigger.
A British picture, cinematography Douglas Slocombe, score Johnny Dankworth, second unit Peter Medak. Maurice Binder packs a ‘chute for the opening titles, a masterpiece.
Screenplay by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. from the novelist, somewhere between Modesty Blaise (dir. Joseph Losey) and The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show (Ponsonby Britt, O.B.E.).
The jumping-off point is assuredly Casino Royale (dirs. Huston, McGrath, Parrish, Hughes, Guest). A latter-day Harry Lime (“in the Forties penicillin, in the Fifties gold”), one Serapkin, is another factor. Fathom in a monogrammed pink blazer and heels.
Howard Thompson (New York Times) “crackling good fun.” Variety, “a mélange of melodramatic ingredients”. Film4, “frothy... energetic, candy-coloured escapism”. Tom Milne (Time Out), “the mind boggles.” TV Guide, “it's hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys.” All Movie Guide, “lighthearted spy spoof”.
A proper comparison is to Neame’s Gambit, an American picture, and there is Furie’s The Naked Runner as well, consequentially throwing light on Polanski’s Frantic, in a way. From Serapkin’s yacht cabin one proceeds backward by easy, rapid steps through Dr. No (dir. Terence Young) to 20000 Leagues under the Sea (dir. Richard Fleischer). “Please don’t ask me how I got the name Fathom.”
“Let me guess.” The structure will be understood in relation to The Maltese Falcon (dir. John Huston), “the Russian’s hand.” Spain, so there is a Picasso and a corrida. “How the devil did H-bombs creep into this cozy chat?”
The screenplay signally borrows from North by Northwest (dir. Alfred Hitchcock). The dingus or “poppet” is of the Ming Dynasty, “most important”. James Bond (in Young’s Thunderball) a murderous adversary makes a prime hallucination at which the film blacks out. “I’m a girl who loves to be surrounded by men, lots of men. It makes me feel so secure.”
“I feel quite a different sensation.” A Russian, an American, and an Englishman, in pursuit of the jewel-bedecked gold beastie in Fathom’s overnight bag, property of Red China which, as explained, “could hardly call up Interpol”.
The Russian, “my presence here is motivated by man’s purest emotion, greed.”
The Englishman, “I’m playing hide and seek, somebody hid it and I seek it.”
The American, “I play all games, golf, tennis, poker...”
Dali’s Perpignan, Cervantes’ Torremolinos (cf. Huston’s Beat the Devil).
Halliwell’s Film Guide, “nothing memorable”, citing the Monthly Film Bulletin, “Good Wholesome Fun”.
Earthquakes have broken the DEW line. A Department of Defense employee murders an Air Force general and obtains information about vulnerable points it will take a month to repair. An agent of the European People’s Republic is en route to Los Angeles for this information, which will enable a surprise attack on the United States.
The Impossible Missions Force stage an invasion and place the man in front of an EPR People’s Military Court with summary executions. “You are an enemy of the people” is the instantaneous determination. Meanwhile, the EPR agent has engaged an assassin to liquidate the American traitor (whose code name is Richter Seven).
Martinson’s direction is extraordinarily detailed and lucid, benefiting from the model for this episode, Horn’s “Operation Rogosh”.
Edison is the name of the filmmaker after a fashion who is the target. He is an extortionist sentenced to Federal prison, on his way he collects a lifetime annuity of five thousand a month from “the most powerful underworld figure west of Chicago” for withholding a piece of evidence.
His girl is dead, he doesn’t know, Casey takes her place and also is a prison psychologist advising against “a private cell in maximum security” pressed by the mobster. Warden Barney agrees, guard Willy fires a squib to rattle the target, Phelps is his cellmate, “the Professor”.
An escape is made, the film is sought, the mobster’s men intervene. A satire on hiding your light under a bushel, with a deep-laid psychology in the plan, and an unusually perceptive target. The title is an evocation of Jacob’s ladder.
A mob family steals a U.S. Army payroll in Southeast Asia. The IM Force pretend to be rivals offering protection at a price. The family is carefully split until a mob war is imminent. The rivals offer soldiers to one side for money, and thus the payroll is recovered, followed by the arrest of both leaders.
Phelps and Barney take up residence at the Watson Hotel in El Conato, a town that doesn’t exist but has a San Diego zip code, and translates as “The Attempt” (cp. “conation”, a word of Beckett’s). Phelps suffers an attack of amnesia after a failed mob hit slightly wounds him, but Barney retraces the plan for him patiently, and he recovers his wits in time to foil a second attempt.
Casey repeats a ploy essayed by Cinnamon in Season 3 (Mayer’s “Illusion”), playing on a mobster’s Vertigo syndrome by aping a beloved chanteuse at Club Tempo and setting up a jealous rage.
An American nuclear physicist is made to understand the peril of his stance when he offers to sell fifty kilograms of plutonium to a foreign power.
In 28 hours, the IM Force persuade him the world has gone to war over the Middle East, and has been at war for 28 years. It’s 2000, the rubble of Southern California is liable to air attacks, he has been in a state of shock since the first nuclear attack. Such people are put to work canning rations for the army, and eventually executed en masse by gas in a closed room. Having come out of semi-consciousness, he is able to plead his usefulness as a scientist, and tell where his plutonium is hidden.
The model again is Horn’s “Operation Rogosh”, and an unforeseen American takes an interest in the plutonium. Phelps receives the mission at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, where a fashion photographer is shooting a layout. The charade is played in “a part of town leveled by the earthquake”, and was filmed on the site of the Olive View Hospital in Sylmar, after the 1971 earthquake.
The entire structure is founded on the Arabian adventure in John Huston’s Beat the Devil.
The Impossible Missions Force, in the guise of Camaguan Navy personnel, arrest gangsters on their way to finance a military coup in that island country off the Venezuelan coast. Charges are read, executions are held, the coup leader (a British soldier of fortune played by Lloyd Bochner) is said to have been captured, etc. A safety deposit box key is at length produced by the last holdout (Robert Webber), only as a bribe to Barney.
After the final great labors in the previous season achieved a miraculous sense of identity-switching, it is now taken for granted, and this supreme abstraction is brought forth by Stephen Kandel out of George F. Slavin. Lana Wood is the bikini aboard the gangsters’ yacht, who shares a cell with Mimi.
Two friendly rivals in the mob, Joe Epic and Mike Apollo, work together under the leadership of retired boss Anton Malta. The amusing names are perhaps an aide-mémoire.
Phelps is an insurance investigator, Epic’s wife has died, a large sum has been paid, she drowned in the bathtub after too many drinks and barbiturates, evidence has come to light suggesting she was murdered by her husband or her lover, who was Mike Apollo.
Her ghost appears to the widower, then a factitious love nest is revealed, Barney is the doorman, Willy the cabdriver twice a week.
Apollo is given to understand that Epic is planning a takeover. Epic accuses Apollo at a special mob sit-down, Apollo produces a rebuttal witness, the undercover agent who was out of the country with him on that St. Patrick’s Day, and whom he has since held captive under torture.
The police rescue the agent, whose name is Louis Parnell, the impossible mission is accomplished.
A middle-level mobster is scheduled to testify before a congressional committee. His wife decides this is the moment to rearrange her affairs, adjust the balance of power in her life. She kisses him a passionate goodbye, blows him up in his private jet, secretes his record book and obtains a lifetime pension from his boss.
Phelps receives the assignment at a gardener’s utility truck outside the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. Willy leaves the husband’s thumbprint on their wall safe, a dual existence is invented for his survival, his double creeps into her bedroom at night and pricks her with a needle.
Phelps is a hit man, Barney a crooked police detective. The husband dies again, Casey having been his mistress. The record book is seemingly up for grabs, so all parties converge on it, led by the wife.
The barebones of this is emphasized toward the conclusion to increase the sense of abstraction in the utmost. What is being conveyed is not revealed until the very last.
A KGN assassin (Gary Lockwood) is arrested by the Federal Intelligence Service at an airport confab. The FIS interrogator (Jason Evers) is the KGN assassination chief, unbeknownst to everyone including the assassin, whose loyalty is tested both ways.
In the end the assassin is seen to be an unfeigned defector, and his chief is obliged to undertake the assassination by scope-and-rifle.
The basis of the work is perhaps Cooper & Schoedsack’s The Last Days of Pompeii. A golden treasure is taken from a museum south of the border. Two partners split over its ownership, one thinking he’s killed the other.
The IM Force undertakes to persuade the former by sleight of hand that he has premonitory powers (cf. “The Bargain”, dir. Richard Benedict). It’s a prophetic theme, and conscious of it. Then, they advertise themselves as Federal geologists surveying the land around his ranch, it’s a classified project, but money troubles allow the data to be bought. There’s a fault under the local dam, flooding is imminent. In a gag developed from Stanley’s “The Survivors”, which also figures in Asher’s Return to Green Acres, they engineer an “earthquake” and a “fore-image” of death by drowning. He scurries for the loot, and is caught.
A secondary theme partly explains the title. The missing partner turns up bloody for vengeance, and is chased by the IMF into a ghost town and shootout. He gets away, and is about to administer the coup de grâce when the arrest is made of both.
This is the final level of abstraction attained by this series, which began in visceral suspense comparable to that of Altman’s Countdown, and then gradually moved toward a more cerebral and not less artistic brand of strong medicine. It will be seen that “The Western” is perfectly deployed in its several levels, that its language is exact, that the real dramatic tension between what is conveyed and the means of conveyance is itself part of the act.
Martinson has a characteristic tracking pan revealing information casually, it occurs when the avenging partner tries to assassinate his foe and is pursued outside the ranch house from left to right past the expressively empty lawn furniture.