On an Italian beach, a prostitute was found dead, clutching a hundred dollar note that turned out to be counterfeit. This sparked a major international police investigation which has led to Britain, where an American agent was sent to track the source of these fake notes the authorities had cottoned onto, but he was killed on a train journey by an assassin (Graham Crowden) wielding a spiked umbrella. To make matters worse for another agent, Peter Novak (Yul Brynner), he becomes involved when he threatens to expose the whole gang only for them to turn the tables and make an attempt on his life with a drive-by shooting; he survived unscathed and managed to fire off a few shots to crash the car, but his girlfriend was not so lucky. He has to stop them now...
The File of the Golden Goose (not The Flight of...) was all filmed in Britain in colour, which for many fans of British culture would be enough to recommend it for its views of Swinging London (just about the point when it was ending its swings) and the surrounding countryside were by this point very evocative of its time, whether you remembered it or not, and that was of course utterly unintended by the makers of such films as this, they thought they were making a standard thriller. All that said, was there anything else to recommend it or was this strictly a travelogue for nostalgists? Well, it wasn't really the finest example of its kind, it had to be said, but there were compensations for addicts of vintage suspense pieces.
Aside from the location work, that was. OK, there was Yul Brynner for a start, a star who may not have been the finest actor in the world but a man whose celebrity extends down the decades to this day thanks to a small handful of widely seen roles that he became indelibly associated with. That rather basic thespian skill granted, he did enjoy considerable charisma when the camera loved him so much, and a legion of female fans followed, which might be why his agent in one montage undertakes a mission to check out the saunas and bathhouses of London in search of the baddie, but also as an excuse for Yul to get his kit off. Unfortunately for us, it afforded another actor a chance to do the same.
He has a cult following as well, as everyone who was featured prominently in The Rocky Horror Picture Show did, for he was the urbane Charles Gray as the apparent Mr Big behind the counterfeiters, and he was introduced to us stark naked and about to receive a massage from a Chinese masseuse. He did have a towel to hide his modesty, but not his arse, so if you ever wanted to see Mocata from The Devil Rides Out or Blofeld from Diamonds are Forever without his breeks, then this was the movie for you. He gave every impression of being proud to show off his unclad form, and as his character was meant to be a homosexual gentleman it offered a very curious sequence, not least because he is threatened by a notably cast against type Crowden as a coldblooded murderer.
The celebrity did not end there, for the American Novak's partner from Scotland Yard was played by Edward Woodward as a hail fellow well met copper who accompanies him undercover. He was a couple of years into his star-making turn in television spy series Callan at this point, but wasn't content to regurgitate his performance from that, pro that he was, and he did get a particularly good scene when he is rumbled by an encounter from out of the blue. Alas, clever bits and pieces like that were thin on the ground, and you began to assume that no matter Brynner's international status as a draw, Woodward was considerably more like the tone director Sam Wanamaker was aiming for, basically televisual as if Novak had his own Saturday night action show and this was the feature length pilot. There was little original about what the script dreamt up, from the predictable twists to the tourist's eye view of London, but it wasn't a dead loss when you had the rather camp collision of Brynner and Gray squaring off verbally against one another. Basic, unpretentious stuff. Music by Harry Robertson/Robinson.