THE DEFECTOR (L’ESPION)
(director/writer: Raoul Levy; screenwriters: Peter Francke/Robert Guenette/from the novel The Spy by Paul Thomas; cinematographer: Raoul Coutard; editor: Albert Jurgenson; music: Serge Gainsbourg; cast: Montgomery Clift (Prof. James Bower), Hardy Kruger (Peter Heinzman), Roddy McDowall (Agent Adam), Macha Meril (Frieda Hoffmann), David Opatoshu (Orlovsky), Christine Delaroche (Ingrid), Hannes Messemer (Dr. Saltzer), Karl Lieffen (The Major), Uta Levka (Mdchen unter der Dusche); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Raoul Levy; Warner Bros.; 1966)
“The last film from the pale looking Montgomery Clift.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The last film from the pale looking Montgomery Clift, who soon after the film wrapped died of a heart attack. It doesn’t generate much excitement due to the weak story, even weaker direction of Raoul Levy (“Marco the Magnificent”/”Hail, Mafia”) and a very weak Clift giving a good effort despite no longer having his star appeal or much energy. The Belgium-born Levy killed himself with a gunshot in 1967, only a year after the film was released. The routine Cold War thriller is based on The Spy, a novel by Paul Thomas, and is co-written by Levy, Peter Francke and Robert Guenette.
While American physicist Prof. James Bower (Montgomery Clift) is in Munich he’s recruited by cutthroat CIA agent Adam (Roddy McDowall), an old friend, to take a dangerous spy assignment to smuggle out of East Germany microfilm of a Russian scientist defector named Goshenko. Chosen because Goshenko knows him and will only deal with him. Bower is told by the CIA operative that if he refuses, the government would issue no more grants for him and he would have a tough time getting work in his field.
In Leipzig, Bower is confronted as a spy by Peter Heinzman (Hardy Kruger), an East German scientist and top-level Communist agent, who knows the American’s assignment is to get the microfilm. To see if Goshenko passed the microfilm to Bower before his death, the Russian top spy Orlovsky (David Opatoshu) has Bower go through a drug-induced brainwashing while locked in his hotel room. After released, Bower obtains the microfilm from a contact, a medical doctor, Dr. Saltzer (Hannes Messemer), and begins a romance with his sweet nurse Frieda Hoffmann (Macha Meril). Meanwhile Orlovsky schemes to get Heinzman to convince Bower to defect. When Heinzman is reluctant, he’s threatened with never getting a top position again. Bower refuses to defect, and Heinzman is then ordered to cross the border as a defector and to convert Bower into believing scientists should work for the world and not countries. After Bower’s nighttime escape across the East German check-points and canals, Heinzman unites with Bower but is killed in Munich by a truck driven by a CIA contract killer.
The film was shot in Germany.
REVIEWED ON 9/17/2012 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/