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  Venetian Affair, The Venice Menace
Year: 1967
Director: Jerry Thorpe
Stars: Robert Vaughn, Elke Sommer, Felicia Farr, Karlheinz Böhm, Luciana Paluzzi, Boris Karloff, Roger C. Carmel, Edward Asner, Joe De Santis, Fabrizio Mioni, Wesley Lau, Bill Weiss
Genre: Drama, Thriller, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: An American diplomat who is attending a peace conference focused on nuclear disarmament has a secret. In the minutes leading up to him entering the relevant building in Venice, he was briefed by one Robert Wahl (Karlheinz Böhm), a mysterious figure who took away all the man's metallic objects, including cigarette case, keys and wedding ring. Nothing that would set off the metal detector, that was, though once he got through security and was sitting in the conference room, it turned out he had smuggled a bomb in with his notes - it detonated, killing everyone there.

So why would a perfectly respectable American official become a suicide bomber? It doesn't make any kind of sense, as far as the C.I.A. can work out he was not radicalised in any way and had no links to enemies of peace, so obviously the sole course of action left to them is to send a raging alcoholic journalist to work out what happened. Said alcoholic is Bill Fenner, and the actor playing him was the reason quite a few people have been fooled into watching The Venetian Affair thinking it was something else. Back in 1967, there were quite a few audiences who would have read the book this was based on, but who needs books when you have TV?

So never mind that Helen McInnes was the author of this and a run of popular espionage novels, what about that star, Robert Vaughn? He was coming off a hugely successful run as Napoleon Solo in the spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which had seen a number of its episodes transformed into feature films thanks to the magic of re-editing old plots, and that's what many to this day believe The Venetian Affair to be, simply by looking at Vaughn's name in the cast list and hearing that it was a spy yarn. But there was no David McCallum to be seen, this actually owed more to the efforts emerging from Europe at the time.

You would then go onto think, well, Mr Vaughn was trying to audition for some American James Bond role or other, but you'd be wrong there as well, for what this was more like was Michael Caine's Harry Palmer movies with their European setting, an ordinary man (in spite of being played by a big celebrity) in extraordinary circumstances, and a plot you had to sit up and pay attention to so that you'd be able to work out who was doing what to whom. Presumably that was the idea, but Vaughn was simply too square-jawed to be playing anything but a less complicated hero type, though he would go on to be adept at the smooth villains too, just not in this particular item.

If he was miscast for anything except a pseudo-Bond, he was at least supported by an interesting cast, which included three, er, Fenner girls in the shape of Jack Lemmon's wife Felicia Farr, very familiar face in international productions Elke Sommer, and actual Bond Girl Luciana Paluzzi, not speaking a word of English here and barely figuring in the plot except as hanger-on to Fenner's contact, Roger C. Carmel. Also of interest was Edward Asner as a no-nonsense C.I.A. man and proving as intimidating as the actual bad guys, plus in one of his final roles Boris Karloff as an elderly diplomat whose report into the attack may prove very important. Karloff was impressive too, not getting much screen time in the middle but important to the beginning and end, though it was Boehm who was most formidable as the politely sinister Wahl, getting into a climactic gunfight along the Venice canals. So, nice locations, professional performances, Ipcress File rip-offs including Lalo Schifrin's Barryesque score and a cat terrified of a rat. Not bad, not even that complex by the end, but just OK.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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