HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
That Most Important Thing: Love
Man on the Run
First Love
Countess from Hong Kong, A
Storm Boy
Storm Boy
Frozen II
White Sheik, The
Whalebone Box, The
Hunt, The
Invisible Man, The
Honey Boy
System Crasher
Judy & Punch
Bacurau
Battling Butler
Vivarium
Seven Chances
Dogs Don't Wear Pants
Navigator, The
Knives Out
Hit!
Charlie's Angels
Passport to Shame
Le Mans '66
Keep Fit
Doctor Sleep
Friend or Foe
Brass Target
Mine and the Minotaur, The
Sky Pirates
Syncopation
Sea Children, The
Ghost of a Chance, A
Go Kart Go
Great Buster, The
Seventy Deadly Pills
Wings of Mystery
Treasure at the Mill
VFW
   
 
Newest Articles
The End of Civilisation as We Know It: The 50th Anniversary
The Whalebone Box: The Andrew Kotting Interview
Being Human: The Elephant Man on 4K UHD Blu-ray
It's! Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 3 on Blu-ray
Put the Boot In: Villain on Blu-ray
The Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 2: Vic Pratt Interview
All the Lonely People: Sunday Bloody Sunday on Blu-ray
Desperate Characters: Beat the Devil on Blu-ray
Chansons d'Amour: Alfie Darling on Blu-ray
Ozploitation Icon: Interview with Roger Ward
Godzilla Goes to Hollywood
Demy-Wave: The Essential Jacques Demy on Blu-ray
The Makings of a Winner: Play It Cool! on Blu-ray
Sony Channel's Before They Were Famous: A Galaxy of Stars
Start Worrying and Hate the Bomb: Fail-Safe on Blu-ray
Completely Different: Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 2 on Blu-ray
Bash Street Kid: Cosh Boy on Blu-ray
Seeing is Believing: Being There on Blu-ray
Top Thirty Best (and Ten Worst) Films of the 2010s by Andrew Pragasam
Top of the Tens: The Best Films of the Decade by Graeme Clark
Terrorvision: A Ghost Story for Christmas in the 1970s
Memories Are Made of This: La Jetee and Sans Soleil on Blu-ray
Step Back in Time: The Amazing Mr. Blunden on Blu-ray
Crazy Cats and Kittens: What's New Pussycat on Blu-ray
No Place Like Home Guard: Dad's Army - The Lost Episodes on Blu-ray
   
 
  Night Flight from Moscow Yul plays it cool while Fonda ponders
Year: 1973
Director: Henri Verneuil
Stars: Yul Brynner, Henry Fonda, Dirk Bogarde, Philippe Noiret, Michel Bouquet, Virna Lisi, Guy Tréjan, Elga Anderson, Marie Dubois, Nathalie Nerval, Robert Alda, Farley Granger, André Falcon, Robert Party, William Sabatier, Paola Pitagora, Luigi Diberti
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: On arriving in Paris, KGB officer Colonel Alexei Vlassov (Yul Brynner) declares his intention to defect to the West. Which comes as no small shock to his devoted wife (Nathalie Nerval) who flies home to Russia to rejoin their sons. Initially interrogated by the French Secret Service, Vlassov is eventually handed to the CIA in Washington D.C. subject him to even more rigorous psychological probing, overseen by skeptical spy-master Allan Davies (Henry Fonda). However, seasoned British Intelligence agent Philip Boyle (Dirk Bogarde) has known Vlassov for several years. He maintains Vlassov's intentions are sincere. As an act of good faith Vlassov delivers to Davies a list of double-agents active in West Germany, France and the USA. But before the CIA can act these men are bumped off by covert assassins working for a mysterious unseen agent, identified only by a cigarette case with a distinctive snake emblem...

By the Seventies most spy films, with the exception of the enduring James Bond franchise, moved beyond the campy super-heroics that characterized Sixties genre fare. They were usurped by grittier, sober-sided tales of Cold War espionage that looked back to John Le Carré's bleak The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965). This new low-key, ambiguous, darkly satirical style culminated in another Le Carré adaptation, the acclaimed BBC mini-series Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979) later remade as a very polished film in 2011. Released in France as Le Serpent (a title drawn from the assertion that the first spy in history was the serpent that tempted Eve in the Bible), Night Flight from Moscow is in a similarly cerebral vein. Indeed it hammers home the seriousness of its subject matter with somber narration of facts, figures and minute details about the CIA that, ironically, in retrospect now seem faintly camp.

French-Armenian maestro Henri Verneuil was no slouch when it came to taut, compelling thrillers (e.g. Any Number Can Win (1963), The Sicilian Clan (1969), The Burglars (1971), Per sur la ville (1975)). Alas, for all its ambitions and fittingly ambiguous treatment of the subject matter, Night Flight from Moscow is a curiously laboured, ponderous and uninvolving viewing experience. Verneuil, who had proven his mettle with international productions before, too often loses grasp of a cluttered, unfocused plot. In one of his better later roles, Yul Brynner is an intriguing, magnetic presence but sorely under-characterized. For the most part Brynner and fellow Big Name Star Henry Fonda merely book-end the sprawling story-line. A string of vignettes unfolding in multiple languages across multiple locations bring on a host of international stars who take turns lifting the plot. Hence Farley Granger pops up as a CIA analyst. Gorgeous Virna Lisi makes a sexy one-scene cameo (to briefly counterbalance this sausage-fest) as the seeming impetus for Vlassov's defection. The great French actor Philippe Noiret shoulders his own French-language subplot as a disgraced intelligence officer trying vainly to outfox his former colleagues. On his trail is the no-less accomplished Michel Bouquet, as a sardonic spy-master who takes advantage of events to advance his own career and blithely admits he trusts no-one, not even his own family.

The film strives to paint a portrait of a world where paranoia is a way of life. It succeeds in part and, to its credit, evokes some pity for lives destroyed as result of callous manipulation by various covert organizations. However the individual subplots prove frustratingly inconclusive and at times also inconsistent. Characters disappear and reappear at random including some who meet tragic fates only to abruptly re-emerge unscathed. Even the titular serpent turns out to refer to someone entirely different from the character marked as such. Perhaps the strangest thing about the film is how despite hailing from a period in time when the public at large were highly suspicious about American intelligence activities around the world, it plays somewhat like a hagiography of the CIA. Much as The FBI Story (1959) did for another agency decades prior. On the plus side Verneuil stages one strikingly effective suspense sequence involving an assassination underwater and the photography by the great Claude Renoir, who subsequently jumped on to the James Bond franchise, is first rate. Music by Ennio Morricone employing some suitably unnerving electronic effects.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 1323 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
  Butch Elliot
Andrew Pragasam
  Rachel Franke
Enoch Sneed
Paul Smith
Paul Shrimpton
   

 

Last Updated: