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Saturday, January 25, 2014

INNOCENT BYSTANDERS (1972)

It’s sideburn heaven (or hell) in this James Bond wannabe that lands with a brutal thud, falling between the cracks of outright spoofery and serious intentions. Stanley Baker, looking & acting like an unkempt Welsh stand-in for Sean Connery, never gets a rhythm going under Peter Collinson’s painfully amateurish megging, and neither spy masters Dana Andrews & Donald Pleasence, gal pal Geraldine Chaplin or a motley assortment of bad guys bring anything fresh to the party. Nor does the McGuffin, something about a revolutionary desalination process. Talk about excitement! Whatever interest there is lies in an unusually high level of sadistic violence for the date and in an opening prison-break prologue set in a Russian Gulag. This first reel is entirely different in tone & in simple directorial competence from everything that follows. Best guess is that without any of the leading players involved, it got dealt off to Assistant Director Clive Reed whose credits include DR. NO/’62; THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES/’65; HELP!/’65; and CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE/’66. Too bad they didn’t let him make the whole film. After that, there’s nothing but those outrageous sideburns to hold our interest.

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