Monday, August 29, 2016

Catch Me a Spy (1971)

Bland, contrived, and almost laughably unhurried, the Cold War-themed romantic comedy Catch Me a Spy—sometimes marketed as Keep Your Fingers Crossed or To Catch a Spy—is the worst sort of international coproduction. The film’s American, English, and French leading actors employ clashing performance styles, and the episodic storyline seems as if it was designed to showcase as many European locations as possible. Especially because the narrative is cobbled together from elements viewers have encountered a million times before, Catch Me a Spy is as much of a hodgepodge as its multinational DNA. A little Kirk Douglas here for the American market, a little Marlène Jobert there to keep the Gallic crowd interested, and some high-speed action skimming across the surfaces of Scottish lakes for atmosphere. So, while Catch Me a Spy technically runs just 94 minutes, it feels much, much longer. The source of the movie’s problems, of course, is a rotten script. Jobert plays a woman whose Englishman husband gets arrested by Russian agents on espionage charges and extradited to the USSR, so she entreats British officials to arrange a prisoner exchange. When that endeavor fails (in the movie’s only truly funny scene), she tries to find another spy whom the Brits can trade for her husband. After encountering him several times under strange circumstances, she believes that Douglas’ character is the guy for the job. What ensues is dull and ridiculous. Even as she negotiates for her husband’s release, Jobert’s character spends endless amounts of time hanging out with Douglas’ character, eventually surrendering to his charms. Beyond questions of logic, where’s the danger, the excitement, the urgency? Douglas grins a lot but otherwise applies a style far too heavy-handed for this sort of piffle, while Jobert’s English is so tentative as to be distracting. To no avail, supporting players Tom Courtenay, Trevor Howard, and Patrick Mower all contribute work more interesting than that of the leads.

Catch Me a Spy: LAME

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