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DESTRUCTORS, THE (THE MARSEILLE CONTRACT) (director: Robert Parrish; screenwriter: Judd Bernard; cinematographer: Douglas Slocombe; editor: Willy Kemplen; music: Roy Budd; cast: Michael Caine (John Deray), Anthony Quinn (Steve Ventura), James Mason (Jacques Brizard), Maurice Ronet (Inspector Briac), Alexandra Stewart (Rita), Maureen Kerwin (Lucienne), Catherine Rouvel (Brizard’s Mistress), Patrick Floersheim (Joe Kovakian), Pierre Salinger (Fred Williams), Marcel Bozzuffi (Calmet); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Judd Bernard; Vestron Video; 1974)
“With enough clichés to fill the Seine.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Robert Parrish (“Cry Danger”/”Casino Royale”/”A Town Called Hell”) directs and Judd Bernard scripts this inert thriller set in France with enough clichés to fill the Seine. Even three top actors such as Michael Caine, Anthony Quinn and James Mason can’t stop its ugly amoral depiction of crime fighters and bring it to life. They all look old, tired, paunchy and hardly menacing. Maybe with a better suited cast (all three were miscast, with Caine and Quinn completely out of sorts and acting as if they weren’t in the same pic) the film would have fared better. It’s a minor routine crime drama covering familiar turf that’s a poor knockoff of The French Connection (1971).

Steve Ventura (Anthony Quinn) is the brooding US narcotics agent who is unhappy that he’s just been promoted to a desk job as head of the Paris office and not out on the field. When agent Frank Matthews, Steve’s friend, is killed by connected Marseille drug lord Jacques Brizard (James Mason) and the French police under Inspector Briac (Maurice Ronet) refuse to arrest him and Brizard’s henchmen attempt to kill him, Steve hires a professional hit man to get Brizard by secretly using money from his agency. It turns out the contract killer is Steve’s war buddy, John Deray (Michael Caine), who makes for an unconvincing hit man by jokingly playing the role as a smug ladies man and as a supposedly cool lascivious winker. John takes $50,000 for the contract and infiltrates Brizard’s gang, but before he can execute him things take a bad turn.

While Quinn broods throughout the pic, Caine keeps it lighthearted as if it were a comedy, and Mason is asked only to speak with a slight French accent and lend his role a voice of steely mob boss credibility. It seems as if the film had no direction, and turns into a below average detective film that is easily forgettable. Caine even forgot to include it in his autobiography, What’s It All About? The actor had mentioned he only took the part because it was shot on the French Riviera.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”