The Sell Out (1976)
I find that quite often while reading a biography of an actor or actress I start scanning the movie shelves for something to watch. As I am now reading Robert Sellers recently published book on Oliver Reed, I thought of this mid seventies title he starred in alongside of an actor I have championed for years. Mr. Richard Widmark.
It’s an espionage thriller from director Peter Collinson where C.I.A. agent Sam Wanamaker and his Russian counterpart are taking out agents from both sides that have come to know to much information throughout their “intelligence” careers. Next up on the list is Oliver Reed. He defected to the Russians in years past and Wanamaker wants him eliminated.
Taking place and filmed on location in Israel, Reed is quick to realize that he has assassins on his tail. Who better to call then his trainer and handler from his youth the now retired Widmark. At first Widmark wants nothing to do with Ollie as he’s “out” of the game and now living with sexy Gayle Hunnicutt. If you know Reed then you know he has a powerful aura and quickly enlists Widmark’s help in trying to solve the mystery of who wants him eliminated.
It’s a rather uneasy alliance and Widmark wants to know why everyone including Gayle wants Reed handed over to Wanamaker. More so when a friendship on the local police force is terminated with a bullet. With the return of Reed to his calm retired years it’s Widmark’s life that is about to be turned upside down. It’s back to the dark alley ways and not knowing who to trust. Is anyone actually who they claim to be?
I have viewed this film a number of times and each time I revisit it I spot more choppy editing, a melodramatic love triangle and another laughable dummy getting crushed in a car. While this doesn’t exactly sound like a strong recommendation I can’t help myself. Widmark and Reed actually make for an engaging team on screen. The backdrop of spies and espionage work in their favor as does the location filming.
At this point in his career Widmark was still active and looked good with his hair turned to silver. This was the second film in a row he starred in overseas. He had also appeared in the underrated Hammer production To The Devil a Daughter released the same year as this title.
Oliver Reed gives us his patented brutish performance with a force that is hard to deny. Up until his declining years he must have scared the hell out of his costars when he played tough and let that scowling anger come forward on set. Perhaps even more so if he fell off the wagon and hit the bottle. There is a scene here where he plays drunk and I can’t help but wonder if he was well in his “cups” during its filming. For me Reed is the all time champion “hell raiser” from overseas claiming the crown over his pals Burton, Harris and O’Toole.
This was put out through the Warner Archive collection so I pounced on it a few years back. Glad I did even though it has it’s many flaws. But with Widmark and Reed along for the ride I just can’t help myself. Even the cool movie poster is in my collection!