EXECUTIONER, THE (director: Sam Wanamaker; screenwriters: from a story by Gordon McDonell/Jack Pulman; cinematographer: Denys Coop; editor: Roy Watts; music: Ron Goodwin; cast: George Peppard (John Shay), Joan Collins (Sarah Booth), Judy Geeson (Polly Bendel), George Baker (Philip Crawford), Keith Michell (Adam Booth), Oskar Homolka (Racovsky), Nigel Patrick (Colonel Scott), Charles Gray (Vaughan Jones), Alexander Scourby (Prof. Parker), Peter Bull (Butterfield), Peter Dyneley (Balkov); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Charles H. Schneer; Columbia; 1970-UK)
“The story is so glumly executed that it’s hard staying with it to the end without losing interest.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A triple-cross suspense film based on a story by Gordon McDonell and written by Jack Pulman. It’s flatly directed by Sam Wanamaker (“Catlow”/”Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger”/”The File of the Golden Goose”) and it’s at best only routinely acted. This spy film set in England has a good plot twist, but the story is so glumly executed that it’s hard staying with it to the end without losing interest.
American actor George Peppard plays British Intelligence agent John Shay, who was educated in America after his parents were killed in a London air raid during the war. When Shay’s spy ring in Czechoslovakia gets taken down by a leak and 8 of his operatives are killed or missing, a crestfallen Shay fails to get his boss, Colonel Scott (Nigel Patrick), to investigate that Adam Booth (Keith Michell), his colleague, is a double-agent. Adam married Sarah (Joan Collins) after he stole her away from him, and Shay still loves her. With help from his new girlfriend file clerk in the spy office, Polly Bendel (Judy Geeson), who steals secret files, Shay is convinced that Adam is working with the KGB. When caught with the stolen files Polly is canned and Shay suspended, but that doesn’t stop him from going to Istanbul to talk to a KGB defector (Oskar Homolka) held by the CIA. The defector is soon killed in a car bomb in Turkey. Later, back home, Shay’s friend, the British scientist Philip Crawford (George Baker), working on a classified research project, calls to tell him Adam tried to steal his research documents he took home to work on and he overcame the thief and knocked him cold. Shay is now doubly convinced Adam’s a double-agent, and thereby kills him and dumps his body by plane in the English Channel. Shay then steals his passport, his airline ticket and heads to Athens posing as Booth. This turns out to be a dangerous thing to do because both the KGB and CIA are there to meet him.
The story line might have looked good on paper, but it doesn’t look good in the lackluster way Wanamaker wove it together on film.
REVIEWED ON 3/31/2009 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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