In one of the most frequently repeated film-director tutorials of all time, Alfred Hitchcock explained his method of generating suspense. Picture a scene of two people talking in a room, and then suddenly a bomb explodes. That’s shock. Now picture the same scene, but insert a shot at the beginning revealing the presence of the bomb—information the audience possesses, but the characters do not. That’s suspense. Hitchcock’s theory helps explain at least one of the reasons why The Salzburg Connection is among the least suspenseful thrillers of the ’70s. During the first half of the movie, characters chase after something, but the audience has no idea what they’re pursuing. Therefore, it’s impossible for us to determine whether we should care about the outcome of the search.
Exacerbating this problem is one of the blandest leading characters ever featured in a mystery movie, American lawyer Bill Mathison. As played by Barry Newman, best known for playing the cipher-like protagonist of Vanishing Point (1971) and the title character of the TV series Petrocelli (1974-1976), Mathison is an average dude with average intelligence and average manners—he seems more like a passerby who wandered into the movie than a leading man.
Adapted from a popular novel by Helen MacInnes, The Salzburg Connection depicts the international search for World War II-era documents containing the names of Nazi spies, which is interesting-ish, but the filmmakers waste far too much screen time on lifeless dialogue scenes. Making matters worse is the competent but uninspired work of leading lady Anna Karina, the French beauty who was jean-Luc Godard’s on- and offscreen muse during the ’60s. (In her defense, the only requirements of her anemic role are looking appealing and frightened.)
Not that it makes much difference, The Salzburg Connection was the English-language debut of Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer, who enjoyed significant international success in the ’80s. He’s fine here, but the movie is such a dud it’s no surprise he failed to secure another major role in an English-language picture until playing the villain in the “unofficial” 007 flick Never Say Never Again (1983).
The Salzburg Connection: LAME