Monday, April 04, 2011

"DANGER ROUTE" IS A SPY MOVIE WHICH DOESN'T PLAY LIKE ANY JAMES BOND KNOCKOFF. This low-key, sour (in a good way) and rather grumpy (also in a good way) espionage flick is called by "The Eurospy Guide" co-author David Deal as "one of the unsung gems of the genre" and he's not far wrong. Some sadly suffering from short attention spans might bewail the relative lack of action; there are no massive explosions or car crashes every 10 minutes and no wacky gadgets a la agent 007. However, what there is is an absorbing storyline in which no one can trust anyone else. Also there is a cast which is uniformly excellent, direction which is economical and absorbing and a script which is tight, cynical and gritty.
Jonas Wilde (Richard Johnson) is a British agent who has just finished one case and abruptly has to start a new one. A defector named Balin is coming over to "our" side; however the Brits feel he could cause a lot of damage to them if allowed to go to the Americans. So they decide that Balin will meet with an unfortunate "accident" via Jonas Wilde and this will all be chalked up to British "inefficiency" while the defector is in their custody. Wilde takes leave of his live-in girlfriend Jocelyn (Carol Lynley) -- who doesn't know he's a spy -- and heads off to the manor house in which Balin is being sequestered. In a local pub, Wilde chats up the manor's housekeeper Rhoda (Diana Dors) and talks his way into the house and her bed. While there, Wilde manages to take on the CIA agents led by Lucinda (Sam Wanamaker) and kill the defector. However, during the melee and escape, Wilde is shot in the arm, bitten by an attack dog and coshed by Lucinda. After being roughed up and interrogated, Wilde manages to escape the CIA. Unfortunately, Lucinda has allowed Wilde to escape in order to lead him to his superiors. This is about all I'm going to say about the plot since it is intricate with twists and turns galore and I've only managed to tell you about 10 percent of it so far. You really have to see the movie for the whole shebang. And see the movie you should because it's a terrific yarn! If you're set up to watch movies instantly on Netflix, you can watch it right now.
Richard Johnson (Professor Markway from THE HAUNTING) is wonderfully sour and cynical as agent Jonas Wilde. His world-weary face has seen it all, it seems, making his character instantly believable. He is also good at the physical bits. Diana Dors is terrific (as always) as the lonely housekeeper who feels like she needs to go on a diet; she really conveys to quiet desperation of the woman. Also rounding out the superb cast is Harry Andrews, Gordon Jackson, Sylvia Syms (also wonderful as the upper crust Mrs. Canning), Barbara Bouchet and Maurice Denham. Everyone in the film is fantastic without exception. Director Seth Holt previously worked on the DANGER MAN television series as well as Hammer thrillers THE NANNY and SCREAM OF FEAR. DANGER ROUTE would sadly be his last completed film; he would die during the making of Hammer's BLOOD OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB. The script by Meade Roberts (SUMMER AND SMOKE) was adapted from the novel "The Eliminators" by Andrew York. Oddly, this would also be Roberts' penultimate film as screenwriter as well. As far as gritty and more realistic spy films go, DANGER ROUTE cannot be bettered. It's less James Bond and more CALLAN in feel. And any comparision with CALLAN from me is about the highest praise any film can get. Seek it out!

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