I don’t think I’ll get any argument if I say John Huston is a cinematic legend who has made some of the greatest American films of all time. It sort of goes without saying, even though I just said it. He has adapted works from some of the best writers in America such as Dashiell Hammett, Tennessee Williams and Herman Melville, to name a few. Hell, he made Stockton, CA look tragically romantic.
In the ‘60s due to government scandals, presidential assassinations and a rising interest in transparency, cold war thrillers flourished. Spurred by the international success of some guy named James Bond, the public was inundated with often intricately plotted examples of the genre. The gritty, twisty Michael Caine vehicle THE IPCRESS FILE (1965) became the high-water mark and the razor-sharp Patrick Magoohan series THE PRISONER (1967) turned it all upside-down.
So now we have John Huston, two years before the classics FAT CITY and THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN, making a cold war thriller with the likes of Richard Boone, Nigel Green, Dean Jagger, George Sanders, Orson Welles and Max Von Sydow! This has to be a work of genius, right?
Why is this letter so important as to get some grumpy old men out of retirement? As we find out later in the film, it is a letter from the CIA promising assistance to Russia if China obtains nuclear weaponry. Uhhh, yeah. I guess the CIA no longer wants to help out the Reds, so they need to get it back. Why they can’t just tell the Russkies that they’ve changed their mind, or why they really need to send a bunch of old codgers in there instead of an elite team of navy seals is not explained. Unfortunately little else is either.
|Metaphor you say?|