Friday, May 16, 2014

The Swiss Conspiracy (1976)

          Perhaps because he always wears a pissed-off expression on his face, as well as swinging-single outfits noteworthy for plunging necklines that showcase his manly pelt, David Janssen looks like an unhappy tourist in many of his ’70s films. It’s as if he walked from the airport to the location, spat out his lines, and then left with a check in his hands, the ink still wet. One hopes that Janssen at least got to enjoy some sightseeing whenever he wasn’t sleepwalking through his leading role in The Swiss Conspiracy, which makes decent use of beautiful locations throughout Switzerland. The story is a convoluted and forgettable caper about crooks blackmailing account holders of a Swiss bank, with lots of double crosses and “surprise” twists, but so little attention is given to character development that it’s impossible to care what happens to any of the people onscreen. Furthermore, the movie is edited so tightly (The Swiss Conspiracy runs just 89 frantic minutes), that the logical connections between scenes occasionally become obscured. The result is a bit of a hectic blur, though the producers toss lots of eye candy at viewers in the form of attractive women, expert gunplay, high=speed chases, nasty fist fights, and even a few colorful explosions. Adding to the soulless spectacle is the presence of several name-brand actors who do perfunctory work, including John Ireland, Ray Milland, John Saxon, and Elke Sommer.
          Since these performers are directed by Jack Arnold, a capable craftsman whose best work comprised a string of Atomic Age sci-fi classics including The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1955), The Swiss Conspiracy looks and sounds like a real movie even though it’s standard-issue European junk. Janssen plays David Christopher, an American security expert hired to help bank manager Johann Hurtil (Milland) identify and capture the criminals who are extorting Hurtil’s customers. Complicating matters is the presence of Robert Hayes (Saxon), an American gangster who recognizes Christopher as a former police officer and summons Mafia hit men to Switzerland. Predictably, Christopher makes room in his schedule to romance attractive jet-setter Denise Abbott (Senta Berger), one of the blackmail victims. Story-wise, The Swiss Conspiracy is a washout. Escapism-wise, it’s not awful. Powered by a cheesy electro jazz/rock score, the movie zips along from one high-octane scene to another, mixing death and deceit into a Saturday-matinee soufflé—albeit one that never fully rises. No wonder Janssen looks so irritable in every scene.

The Swiss Conspiracy: FUNKY


Unknown said...

Pete, perhaps the weirdest David Janssen venture is 1978's TV movie "The Word" based on the novel by thriller hack Irving Wallace (though I've a soft spot for his "R Document"). Co-stars James Whitmore, along with Nicol Williamson, Christopher Lloyd and Jonathan Banks, lately of "Breaking Bad" fame, playing a younger version of the key villain. Before there was "The Da Vinci Code," there was this much dumber but reasonably fun effort. Thanks to "The Word" I've coined the term "Calder-Lebrun effect." Lebrun refers to the Banks character, while Calder is the name of the villain in the old movie "Red Planet Mars." The Calder-Lebrun effect is my term for when one lone maniac instantly and effortlessly sweeps up the whole world in a fraud. It's a royal hoot.

By Peter Hanson said...

Sounds amazing (after a fashion). Will look for it...