Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Human Factor (1975)


          Watching the meat-and-potatoes terrorism thriller The Human Factor, one can’t help but wonder which actor the producers originally envisioned in the lead role, because George Kennedy just doesn’t have the stuff this movie needs. Playing a civilian computer specialist working on a top-secret military project in Italy, he’s fine as a lumbering bear of an American out of step with continental types—but the minute the story kicks into gear, Kennedy is asked to summon degrees of anguish and intensity he just can’t muster, undercutting key scenes so badly they inch toward self-parody.
          This is a shame, because the story is solid: A group of terrorists begins killing randomly selected American families who are living in Europe, and Kennedy’s wife and child are the first victims. Using the technology at his disposal, an espionage database designed to predict enemy activity, Kennedy goes the vigilante route, determined to get revenge and upset the killers’ plans. Predictably, his intrusion makes the situation worse. There are several exciting run-ins with terrorists, plus a useful subplot about a European cop trying to stop Kennedy from waging his one-man war. So, with a stronger actor in the lead, this material could have connected quite nicely. Though tough guy Charles Bronson comes to mind as an obvious casting alternative, a version of The Human Factor starring, say, everyman Jack Lemmon could have been quite powerful, since a skilled actor would have grounded the concept in believable emotion.
          Unfortunately, with Kennedy in place, the rest of The Human Factor unfolds in as workmanlike a manner as the lead performance. Studio-era director Edward Dmytryk, helming the last feature of his epic career, puts the story together capably, showing mild flair during action scenes, but he’s not able to muster sufficient on-camera energy. Englishman John Mills, cast somewhat randomly as Kennedy’s co-worker/friend, exacerbates problems with an amateurish performance, though Italian star Raf Vallone is impassioned as the cop pursuing Kennedy, and stalwart American Barry Sullivan provides effective work as an overwrought diplomat driven to drink by the terrorism crisis.

The Human Factor: FUNKY

6 comments:

Tom F said...
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Tom F said...
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Tom F said...
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Tom F said...

Mr. Hanson with all due respect to your profession you must have watched this fine movie in fast forward. It took place in Italy and not in Germany. This was always one of my favorites, made gutsy with stamina and without all the phony special effects. Kennedy was perfect for the role along with the other cast members who blended very well. The role didn’t call for a “tough guy” but a common guy with human imperfections who was driven by loss and grief, which turned into revenge and rightfully so. Exodus Chapter 21. That’s how you deal with Terrorists and what the majority of the Country believes is right. In the time period this movie was made Intel was not like it is now. We have made great gains in our law enforcement challenges and I was proud to be part of it. One fine scene you may want to review again when Kennedy was with Sullivan at the scene of the second massacre and the bodies were being removed from the crime scene. The Director did a superb job closing in on Kennedy's eyes that at first showed deep sorrow which compressed into anger. The final NATO Commissary gun battle depicted very well his anger and skills unleashed. One who owns a gun usually knows how to use it. Although a technical flaw at the final scene where he ventilated the main terrorist, (1911s are not double action), he did what he set out to do and the Exodus Chapter 21 scroll was a nice ending.

This movie deserves better than you gave it. One final note, the name of the computer system was 911, 26 years prior to that horrible day.

Tom F said...
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Tom F said...

Thank you Mr. Hanson for making the correction from the movie taking place in Germany to Italy. Although very pleased Kennedy was not replaced, I think if it had to be, a better alternative to Jack Lemmon could have been Ernest Borgnine or even Clint Walker. Mr. Borgnine would have been 58 if casted and Mr. Walker 48. Mr. Borgnine's role in Marty showed the flare of sweetness and frustration coupled with when pushed anger. Actors Kennedy, Borgnine and Walker have all shown on screen their altruistic personalities and toughness. It had to be the “family man” personality for this movie.
Barry Sullivan was not only driven to drink by this incident unfolding but the totality of the staggering government bureaucracy that he was engaged in on a daily basis.