Denholm Elliott, Glenda Jackson, Christian Bale, Billie Whitelaw, Joss Ackland, Ronald Pickup: a damn strong cast for such a modest Thames TV murder-mystery. But it’s early John Le Carré, the second George Smiley novel adapted by the author himself, and must have sounded tempting & classy. In the event, the generic murder story would have been better suited for episodic tv. As stand-alone fare, it hardly competes with either the next Smiley (TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY*) or the preceding (CALL FOR THE DEAD, filmed as THE DEADLY AFFAIR). It’s more like an Agatha Christie whodunnit (DEATH AT A BOYS’ ACADEMY?), with Elliott’s Smiley, on sabbatical from MI-6, doing a Miss Marple act with purposefully misdirected cunning to solve a murder . . . or two. All perfectly watchable, even vaguely amusing at times, but something of a waste in firepower.
DOUBLE-BILL/SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *In spite of Gary Oldman’s recent success playing spymaster George Smiley, Alec Guinness’s two big mini-series (TTSS/’79; SMILEY’S PEOPLE/’82) remain untouchable. Anyway, why redo TTSS when THE HONORABLE SCHOOLBOY awaits adaptation?