The real missing formula here is the secret for making a big-budget international thriller. Steve Shagan adapted his own novel about a hard-nosed L.A. detective (George C. Scott) who starts out investigating a murder and winds up on the trail of a Nazi-era recipe for turning coal into synthetic oil. Shagan’s idea of suspense is to bump suspects off as soon as Scott gets his next clue, then he ships him off to scenic spots in Europe where he meets shady lady Marthe Keller and leaves a few more bodies . . . after getting the next clue. Director John Avildsen is at sea here, urban blight was his thing, not skullduggery among the rich & richly upholstered. The only possible reason to watch this is Marlon Brando who comes up with a goofy take on a big, sly oil tycoon/Master-of-the-Universe pussy-cat with Milk Duds to spare. Taking third billing, behind Scott, Keller and the title, Brando plays character actor and seems to be having a fine time, working Scott like a cat with a mouse. And Scott, to his credit, takes pride & pleasure in losing the game. And how come Brando resembles Dick Cheney, circa 2004? (See photo.) Uncanny.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: In this 1980 pic, Scott ‘defends’ his new Asian/American partner by ‘correcting’ offensive terms like ‘Sloe’ or ‘Chink,’ insisting on ‘Oriental,’ which, of course, is a rug.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Two years before this, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL made a nice hunk of change using Greg Peck, Larry Olivier, Lilli Palmer & James Mason much as this film uses Scott, Brando, Keller & John Gielgud. While almost as trashy as this pic, it seems to know itself and features a wonderfully naughty score from Jerry Goldsmith, sublime lensing from Henri Decaë, ultra-slick production from helmer Franklin Schaffner, and triple the gross M-G-M got out of this dud.