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Innocent Bystanders (1972)

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Here’s a peek into the rather grim world of espionage and how one is discarded when no longer useful. It’s all been done before but I couldn’t help myself when I realized our head spy with a license to kill is Stanley Baker.

Baker is one of Donald Pleasence’s pawns. A very low key Pleasence is practically playing a game of chess with Dana Andrews. Each is hoping to locate an escaped scientist from the iron curtain. Not only are they trying to stay one step ahead of each other in the game but also trying to prevent the KGB from recapturing him first.

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Baker is playing an agent in Donald’s employ. He’s a little older than his counterparts played by ravishing Sue Lloyd and competitor Darren Nesbitt. Nesbitt would like nothing more than to put Baker out of commission. Permanently! Joining Baker in his pursuit is Geraldine Chaplin as a young woman caught up in the game who it seems has a thing for aging spies.

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Baker plays it rough and tough here with no hint of a James Bondish influence in his portrayal of an agent who knows his time is closing in fast. Not so much with the soundtrack which sneaks in a very Bondian tune once in a while.

After a run in with Andrews he’s driven to finish the job and at the same time get out from under Pleasence and the “agency”. Do spies ever really retire in the movies to a life of ease and a hefty pension? I’m not so sure. Especially with the skills one acquires of which Baker puts on display throughout the film.

It’s an interesting cast joining Baker here. Pleasence was by this time a very familiar face and would become identified with the Halloween franchise before the end of the decade as Dr. Loomis. Believe it or not his name in this film is one and the same minus the Doctor title.

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Dana Andrews was by this point in time well past his prime years but does nicely here having moved into character parts. He’s sufficiently nasty and conniving when the script calls for it.

The film was directed by Peter Collinson who is probably best remembered for 1969’s The Italian Job. He did another espionage based film I go back to every now and then called The Sellout with a couple of favorite actors, Richard Widmark and Oliver Reed.

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As for Stanley Baker? Truthfully he looks older than his years. He was 42 years of age here and easily looks past 50. That aside he plays the world weary spy who isn’t so sure of himself anymore just fine.

Far from flashy but not to bad due to the actors involved.

 

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