Clive Donner directs Peter O’Toole, Alastair Sim and Harold Pinter in this British thriller where a maverick toff decides to assassinate Hitler on the eve of WWII and finds himself with no safe place to hide, from fascists of all stripes, after his bullet misses.
An unfussy meat-and-potatoes adaptation of one of my favourite novels. This was made for TV and often in location and in costumes looks like something the ‘Allo ‘Allo team might have filmed with the ‘short ends’ of celluloid on their tea breaks. Yet the casting aims for a higher standard, more worthy of Geoffrey Household’s perfect anti-appeasement chase story. Every interaction is a classy cliffhanger in the first hour, even now there still is a charged thrill in experiencing Adolf tantalisingly in the crosshairs of a hunter’s rifle. How modern audience will take to the third act – where a ragged O’Toole digs himself a hobbit hole in Devon and literally goes to ground – is anyone’s guess? Even this static, drawn out siege sequence reaches an impactful solution, slyly bringing us full circle to that near-perfect opener. Dated, for sure, but the hook of the source material is so strong you can’t help but enjoy it.
Perfect Double Bill: The 39 Steps (1935)
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