Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Susan George, and Anthony Dawson in The Jigsaw Man (1983)


(director: Terence Young; screenwriters: from a novel by Dorothea Bennett/Jo Eisinger; cinematographer: Freddie Francis; editor: Derek Trigg; music: John Cameron; cast: Laurence Olivier (Admiral Sir Gerald Scaith), Michael Caine (Philip Kimberly/Sergei Kuzminsky), Robert Powell (Jamie Fraser), Susan George (Penelope Kimberley), Charles Gray (Sir James Charley), Morteza Kazerouni (Boris Medvachian), Michael Medwin (Milroy), Patrick Dawson (Ginger),Maureen Bennett (Susan), David Kelly (Cameron); Runtime: 98; rated: PG; producer: Ron Carr; United Film Distribution Company; 1983-UK)

“This spy film had no reason to take itself so seriously, the story was just so many green bananas.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A second-rate spy thriller with routine trickery afoot and a silly action finish — it was one that defied reason. It has the cheap feel of a B-film, as it wastes the talents of its noted cast. Director Terence Young and screenwriter Jo Eisinger fail to resuscitate Dorothea Bennett’s cold war novel from its triteness and worn-out familiarity. This spy film had no reason to take itself so seriously, the story was just so many green bananas. It might have been better served if it tried to be a spoof. Dionne Warwick sings the title song “Only You and I.”

The plot concerns a former British Secret Service head, Sir Philip Kimberly (Michael Caine), who defected years ago to Russia. Kimberly’s now a drunk and useless to the Soviets, except they need a paymaster dossier he kept in London. So they offer to pay him a million Swiss francs if he goes to London and gets them that microfilm file. They report in the newspapers that he’s dead. Kimberly gets a new name on his passport, Sergei Kuzminsky, a change of face through plastic surgery which makes him look completely different — as if he’s twenty years younger than his 62 years and unrecognizable to even his relations and friends.

At Heathrow, Kimberly defects. After he’s taken to the Secret Service bureau, he steals agent Milroy’s vicuna coat and vanishes. Later that night, he meets with his old friend and nemesis, Admiral Scaith (Laurence Olivier), who doesn’t recognize him, and he bargains to sell the dossier to his former country for a million dollars in British currency.

The wily Scaith has Scotland Yard fingerprint the room Sir Philip was held in and discovers the rascal is still alive. Meanwhile the Russian agents assigned to accompany him to London, start to hunt him down. Sir Philip thereby contacts his grown daughter Penelope, who changed her last name from Kimberly to Black. She corresponded with him, but he never answered. Why she’s so happy to see her traitor father who abandoned her, is beyond me. But, at least, the film could have tried to come up with some kind of a plausible explanation.

Sir Philip is not only hunted by the KGB but by the British police, so he enlists Penelope’s help. She chooses one of her country hotel friends to hide him, as he warns her to stay away from her flat because the Soviets will kidnap her to Moscow in order to get to him. So what does the dumb broad do — who works as a translator for the U. N. — but she gives her keys to her girlfriend Susan! When Susan raids the kitchen in her friend’s flat she’s mistaken for her, and KGB agent Boris and his team kidnap her (Those clumsy Russians!).

One of the twists is that Penelope’s boyfriend Fraser (Powell), whom she thinks is a drug agent for the U. N., is actually working for Scaith in order to keep tabs on her father. There are more twists, but none of them make you care more about what happens. You are supposed to be wondering which country will Sir Philip be loyal to, or will he be out for only himself while he plays the Soviets against the British!


REVIEWED ON 8/27/2002 GRADE: C –