West is offered the “number two position in the new world order” as head of security to Mr. Braine, the self-described emulator of Zeus in his steam-powered wheelchair that fires small rockets, “thunderbolts”.
Braine’s specialty is tomorrow’s newspaper, delivered to West and Gordon with a headline of a friend’s death witnessed by themselves. These events occur, one way or another.
A replica of the White House Conference Room (a “subterranean chamber”) is occupied by five masked doubles of world leaders (France, England, Spain, Russia, U.S.A.), a tunnel leads to the real one. Braine’s duplicates are to foment “bloody war” across the world, “a world on fire!”, and then “elect one world leader,” Braine.
Voulee is a solemn adherent, “he’s a wonderful man, a world without injustice, a world without war, what other objective can he have?”
Such a hunger for power, West observes, is not easily satisfied. Braine has a masked Gordon, the real one gets “two steps ahead” with a double mask of his own.
It comes down to a duel between West and Braine. The wheelchair sprouts spearpoints, the phony world leaders applaud each sally, West jumps on behind and steers the chair toward their viewing pavilion. He dusts himself off after the explosion.
Aboard the train, the agents in white tie escort two girls in evening gowns. A “rich uncle” lets them use it, in exchange for “boring work”. The map slides down, revealing the gun case, the telegraph clicks. West and Gordon admit to being “international jewel thieves,” the girls are frightened, then appreciative.
Calvin Clements’ genius was never more in evidence, surely. The theme is concurrent in Woody Allen’s (Huston’s, et al.) Casino Royale, and essentially reflects Shaw’s Major Barbara.
The art direction is very splendid, especially the steam chair with its spherical, Heroic boiler and weaponry. Edward Andrews plays Braine in curly hair and mutton chops, without glasses to give himself a faraway, unheeding look.
Somber Voulee is beguiling as bait reading tarot cards, West avoids a trapdoor beneath him, is launched into another high above him and lands on an oversized (8 X 8) chessboard for Mr. Braine.
The ball game is over when the shooting starts.
That’s a really simple metaphor, it makes for all the terse eloquence there is in Peerce’s film, which seems to commemorate the JFK assassination and then the Texas sniper in 1966.
Critics complained that the murderer’s motive is never revealed, his “dying declaration” is merely “don’t hurt me”, they include Richard Eder (New York Times), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) and Halliwell’s Film Guide, Frank Rich of the New York Post concurred in their view that the film was worthless, nothing at all in any way, meaningless. Variety viewed it with professional interest, Time Out Film Guide found “evasiveness and fast cynicism”.