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The Defector (1966)

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For this tale of espionage we are witnessing the final film of Montgomery Clift. Here’s the guy that inspired the “next generation” of actors. Brando, Newman, Dean etc. Sadly at the age of 45 the abuse had taken it’s toll and he would be gone within months of this film’s completion. For this effort he is playing an American physicist sent to East Germany in hopes of securing what practically every film spy seems to be after. The microfilm.

Sent in by C.I.A. operative Roddy McDowall, Clift finds himself playing cat and mouse games with the always reliable Hardy Kruger who lets Monty know that he is quite aware of his mission. He just needs to catch him in the act. Clift is trying to hook up with a Russian counterpart to exchange scientific facts and information to take back to the west via Hollywood’s best friend McDowall.

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Things don’t quite go according to plan. From here director Raoul Levy puts Clift through various obstacles including a drug induced haze that seems right out of Roger Corman’s The Trip. With Kruger pulling the strings, Clift is kept under surveillance and teams with a local nurse played by Macha Meril to extract the required information and find his way to the local underground as he seeks to get his freedom back.

Monty’s career is pretty much an open book. By this time he appears to be out of gas and of course he was. The looks are gone due to the alcohol and the car accident 10 years previous. Even though he was past his prime he still pulls off some of the scenes with professionalism and believability. It’s Hardy Kruger that fits his role perfectly. His character is the most interesting one as he is torn between duty and conscience. The movie also proved the final one for the director Levy as he took his own life not long after the production. He also served as producer as well and received a screen credit for screenplay.

Though this isn’t a bad film it came at a time when espionage films were in vogue and everyone was appearing in them due to the Bond influence. This one was just another title lost in the mix to the superior Harry Palmer titles with Michael Caine and Richard Burton’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold among others. What is nice is that the title became available from the Warner Archive collection allowing me to add it to my shelf.

3 Comments »

  1. I saw this only once, many years ago. I can’t say I remember much now beyond the fact Clift looked so poorly. I have a hunch I didn’t greatly enjoy it but that’s often the case when I know that a person or people involved passed away soon after. I may give it another go somewhere down the line though.

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