Four years after Alfred Hitchcock’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST reset the bar for espionage suspense/thrillers with comic edges, they were proliferating in the new James Bond series & cutesy variants like this Paul Newman starrer.* Featuring a Kommie Kidnapping Konspiracy in the midst of the Nobel Prize ceremonies, it’s worth a look, but coarse & dull rather than witty & sharp. And positively chock-a-block with lifts from the earlier film courtesy of Ernest Lehman who wrote ‘em both. (So who’s he gonna sue for plagiarism, himself?) We get twists on the famous crop-dusting scene; a living room ‘swapped-out’ to hide a crime; a plot point’s worth of imbibing; that disrupted art auction relocated to a Nudist Convention; a sharpshooter to save the day at the finale; even Leo G. Carroll. And many more; lifts not so much quoted as diminished. Mark Robson, not a helmer to trip the light fantastic, shrugs off lousy tech work (those process plates!), but won’t shake a leg to lose a reel of running time. Fortunately, the late scenes give up on wry sophistication to find more comfortable footing playing the suspense straight. Add on the winning Elke Sommer, a good sport in her first Hollywood lead, and you’ve got a workable proposition.
DOUBLE-BILL: *Two years on, Newman moved from a reasonable facsimile to real if regrettably lesser Hitchcock with TORN CURTAIN/’66, yet another Iron Curtain espionage/scientist yarn.