(director: Sidney Lumet; screenwriters: Frank R. Pierson/from the novel by Lawrence Sanders called “The Anderson Tapes”; cinematographer: Arthur J. Ornitz; editor: Joanne Burke; music: Quincy Jones; cast: Sean Connery (Duke Anderson), Dyan Cannon (Ingrid), Martin Balsam (Haskins), Ralph Meeker (Captain Delaney), Alan King (Angelo), Christopher Walken (The Kid), Val Avery (Socks Parelli), Dick Williams (Edward Spencer), Garrett Morris (Sgt. Everson), Stan Gottlieb (Pop Meyer), Paul Benjamin (Jimmy), Anthony Holland (Psychologist), Richard B. Schull (Werner), Conrad Bain (Dr. Rubicoff), Margaret Hamilton (Miss Kaler), Judith Lowry (Mrs. Hathaway); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: GP; producer: Robert M. Weitman; Columbia; 1971)
“Weak caper flick that’s phony, superficial and unconvincing. It too slickly veers between comedy and suspense.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Weak caper flick that’s phony, superficial and unconvincing. It too slickly veers between comedy and suspense. Sidney Lumet (“12 Angry Men”/”Fail Safe”/”The Group”) grabs hold of James Bond icon Sean Connery, who after leaving the spy series was on a downhill slide and hoped this commercial venture would bring back his fan base. Lumet and Connery teamed up previously in The Hill (1965). Though not received well by the critics, The Anderson Tape was a commercial hit and put Connery back on the top list of stars. The conspiracy film comes before the much superior Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974) and also anticipates the Watergate scandal started in 1972.

It’s based on the book by Lawrence Sanders entitled The Anderson Tapes, and becomes the first film to cover the subject of surveillance. The screenplay is by Frank R. Pierson. It was shot on location in NYC.

Duke Anderson (Sean Connery) is an unrepentant safe-cracker who is released from prison after serving a ten year term. He seeks mob funding from crime kingpin Angelo (Alan King) to finance an ambitious robbery of an entire luxury building in NYC. This idea overtakes him after visiting his former girlfriend Ingrid Everleigh (Dyan Cannon), a high-class hooker, and learning her luxury Upper East Side building is crawling with wealthy tenants. What Anderson doesn’t realize is that her building is under surveillance by her untrusting sugardaddy Werner, who bribed the doorman O’Leary to have the Peace of Mind, an organization dedicated to getting the goods on wayward wives and mistresses, set up shop in the basement to illegally bug her apartment with a tape recorder. Also, the Treasury Department is running legal surveillance tapes on Angelo’s place because of his mob connections, as they got warrants. When Anderson rounds up the rest of his crew, they are ironically also under surveillance. So when Anderson recruits his hippie electronics expert, called the Kid (Christopher Walken, in his first big film role), in the electronics shop where he works, he’s under surveillance and so is Anderson’s encounter with the black ex-con Spencer (Dick Williams), recruited to be the getaway driver, whose on tape because he lives above a Black Panther storefront. When Anderson visits his swishy old friend, antique dealer Tommy Haskins (Martin Balsam), he is also being monitored by the FBI for fencing stolen goods. The big irony is that law enforcement, which has no beef with Anderson nevertheless has him under surveillance as he makes contact with those they have under surveillance.

Lumet keeps it as a conventional thriller and shoots for the heist to resolve in an exciting climax. Though it’s watchable and somewhat diverting, it never seems to be going anywhere: the comedy is mostly lame, the tension never builds and its anti-bugging message never really meshes with all the ironies brought out about the differences between illegal and legal surveillance.

The film’s funniest character is Pop (Stan Gottlieb), Anderson’s fellow ex-con just released after 40 years in prison, who is recruited to go along with the heist but soon finds he’d rather be back in prison since he can’t adjust to civilian life. The film’s most annoying character is played by Balsam, that calls for a gross barrage of conventional ‘fag jokes.’