A memory expert (Albert Paulsen) is sent to Ljubljanka Prison to disinform the adverse party into toppling their leader, an aggressive type.
This is a masterpiece of such an order as rarely to be met with. Its theme is memory and the transmission of knowledge, “the secret of durable pigments,” the meaning of art (script by Robert Lewin).
It’s closely related to “Old Man Out”, divided in two movements (but not two episodes). The prisoner is installed, accomplishes his mission. A false rescue attempt is meant to assure this. In the second part, he has acquired some new information. This requires him to escape.
The method of his release is most singular. A motion picture projector and screen are sent to him in a projectile launched from a rifle. The tiny apparatus is set up in front of the TV camera in his cell. It shows him sleeping. Charges of cordite blast the bars in his window, he climbs out.
The film is shot in a warehouse, with Rollin as the prisoner. Barney operates the camera, Briggs directs. Two policemen find the door unlocked, Briggs shushes them. “Dream sequence, New Wave,” he says, before Willy knocks them unconscious.
They paint a Volkswagen red for a fashion shoot with Cinnamon in front of a firehouse near the prison. This is the false attempt, and Willy wonders if the red is correct, as he remembers it. “When you’re ten,” Briggs says, “everything is more so.”
A cardinal facing execution in prison is extricated by means of
a traveling circus set up in the park outside, with Crystal Walker on a
trapeze, Rollin a roustabout and pickpocket, Willy a
strongman, Briggs and Cinnamon a memory act, and Barney a clown at the
Rollin is arrested with an official’s wallet and immediately installed in the prison.
Circus and prisoner are united by a thread from William Tell. St. Paul figures in the decision to mount this huge structural framework in two parts, so that its abstruse familiarity would have time to sink in and its formal arrangement punctuate it.
Rollin has the freedom of the prison, the cardinal is old and
frail, he must be helped to the roof for a run-through
timed to the second with a waltz from the calliope during the memory act.
The terrible suspense of these prison sequences is a hallmark of the first seasons. Cinnamon and Crystal provide a diversion for a pesky guard on duty. The caravan races over the border to calliope music from Barney in costume on a trailer behind as the camera turns upside down to see them coming and going.
Most remarkable in Part Two are the extensive sequences of stunt men climbing down the high prison walls or sliding down the wire, balancing the trapeze artist in both parts.
An unusual, rare part for Nehemiah Persoff as a prince and a ladies’ man, a gambler after neighboring oil fields. He has the money to buy arms, and is made to lose it at the baccarat table to Rollin, who has remarked the marked cards.
Cinnamon has a jealous husband who kills her in the prince’s arms. Both are whisked away, overcome their captors, and join the IM Force in a red Aston Martin DB-5 over the border.
The significant remake in the fifth season is “The Merchant”, by another writer and director altogether (Harold Livingston and Leon Benson).
The mainstay of this delicate operation is the credulity of the
target. It’s shored up with a psychic, who is Cinnamon, and a judge, who
is not only real but an acquaintance of the target, “a con man and a
cheat”. Barney has some extraordinary difficulties in creating the
Success hinges on a game of cards, a single showdown hand of poker, which Rollin as a bigwig mobster is to lose. The target, bolstered by his psychic’s predictions, overtops the cheat, the switch is made under the table, and Sud-Aero Corporation with its NATO contracts is bought back for $80,000,000.
A parable of Broadway. Artie Fowler steals a car, one particular make and model, a confederate shoots him, dumps his body in the park. Artie’s been shooting his mouth off, he’s poor but “by Monday the sun explodes”.
The car is painted and outfitted, the scheme is to drive into the N.Y.P.D. Armory at the Police Academy Firearms Training Unit and drive out with the weaponry, for sale to a mobster named Jellicoe, “numbers, prostitution, gambling”.
The mastermind is a lighting man, currently working on a revue called Happy February. The uniforms come from a costume company, Jellicoe thinks the plan is “too far out”.
Artie’s girl is a model, five years in the business and only two jobs. The mastermind’s girl is a dispatcher, Artie’s room has a map where the cops are sent while the theater’s dark to prepare for the Tony Awards.