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Friday, March 18, 2011

The Kremlin Letter (1970)

At the height of the Cold War, a compromising letter from the United States promising assistance to the Soviet Union as an ally against China falls into the wrong hands and is put up for sale to the highest bidder. A covert government agency sends a crew to Russia to obtain the potentially lethal letter. Directed by John Huston, this is a dark and chilly look at the ugliness of international espionage. It doesn't glamorize the spy business but rather exposes its nastiness and corruption. The downside is that the film's plot is so complex (or convoluted if you prefer) as to be near indecipherable. You're never quite sure who's who, who's good, who's bad and why they're doing what they're doing which leaves one with a sense of disorientation. Huston's direction is tight and pulls you in immediately. Which is not say there aren't some glaring faults like Richard Boone speaking with a Texas accent but he's supposedly passing himself off as an authentic Russian native when he's in the Soviet Union. In 2011 though, the film's take on homosexuality is positively quaint! The film was greatly admired by Jean Pierre Melville and it's easy to see why as Huston's eye on the spy world isn't very far from Melville's eye on gangsters. The large cast includes Max Von Sydow, Orson Welles, Bibi Andersson, George Sanders (in drag yet!), Patrick O'Neal, Lila Kedrova, Dean Jagger, Barbara Parkins, Michael MacLiammoir and Raf Vallone.

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