Skip to content

Assignment to Kill (1968)

It’s thanks to TCM that this low key mystery with a hint of Bond came into my viewing circle recently and one I found very enjoyable thanks to an actor I’ve never given much more than a second glance at, Patrick O’Neal. His underplaying of an insurance investigator/agent/spy/tough guy has a perfect pitch to it and never finds him winking at the camera though the opportunity was there throughout the proceedings that featured a solid cast of well known faces surrounding him as he plies his trade in Switzerland.

Written and directed by Sheldon Reynolds and filmed on location in Switzerland, O’Neal’s quiet hero who chooses his words very carefully will be hired by Kent Smith. He’s to investigate the disappearance of a man who may hold the key to two freighters being intentionally sunk resulting in the deaths of 28 men and a very hefty insurance payoff that the company would like to rescind.

Upon his arrival he soon finds he has a competitor, namely Herbert Lom and a couple of thugs who will quickly make their presence known to O’Neal after he verbally fences with Lom about finding their man. The trail will quickly lead to Joan Hackett who takes a shine to our quiet hero. More than that she finds this whole mystery quite engaging and adds some fun to the film. She knows the whereabouts of the missing man and sets up a meeting. It’s here that O’Neal will be introduced to Peter Van Eyck who admits he sunk the ships and now fears for his life. He’s become a loose end to the actor whose name appeared in the opening credits under the “And” catchphrase, John Gielgud.

 

Dear Herbert Lom isn’t easily shaken off and Van Eyck isn’t long for this world. This puts Lom into the category of dangerous and Miss Hackett becomes rather disappointed in her knight in shining armor when he declares he’s heading back to Smith’s firm with a closed case. She expects O’Neal to deliver justice by proving Lom a killer and whoever he’s working for (Sir John) to be exposed. O’Neal is having none of it until she purposefully tells Lom that Van Eyck left a notarized confession to be turned over to law enforcement in the event of his death and she knows where it is. This puts her in harms way and forces O’Neal to stick around the Swiss Alps for the inevitable clash of good vs. evil. One that will even throw a curve ball I didn’t see coming and would surely have lost a wager on if one had been offered.

Sticking to the sidelines for this decent thriller was it’s producer, actor William Conrad. Also turning up for the mystery is Oscar Homolka as a Swiss police officer who gives O’Neal his blessing to close this case using “whatever” means necessary which includes a well staged fight between Patrick and Lom’s main henchman Leon Greene. To the death. Eric Portman makes a brief appearance and a sexy looking lady stops in to play Sir John’s daughter who takes a long look at our hero as if he’s stepped out of the pages of a Dashiell Hammett mystery. I had no idea who it was so after a quick bit of research I learned it was Mrs. O’Neal. Cynthia O’Neal stars here opposite her hubby. It would be another 22 years before the two shared the screen together once again in Sidney Lumet’s Q & A.

No this isn’t an outright spy film but it has that feel of the genre as many films did during the height of the Bond influence. If one listens closely to the music credited to William Lava, you can hear 4 beats of that famous Bond opening. I’m not imagining this either. I rewound the film twice and got a second opinion from my dear old Mom who was visiting. She nailed it. “James Bond” she said.

So while I did indeed like O’Neal’s calculating agent I couldn’t help but think to myself, “this role has James Coburn written all over it.” Can’t help but wonder if he might have been approached as he was excelling at this type of film during the latter part of the decade though I can’t see him playing it as dour as O’Neal. Jimmy would have flashed us that million dollar grin somewhere along the journey. Herbert Lom? Hey this viewing allows me to check another film off his credit list. Growing up with Chief Inspector Dreyfuss has made me a life long fan of the actor who was so much more than a comedic fall guy for the genius of Peter Sellers.

Keep an eye on TCM for this one that is also available via the Warner Archive Collection.

3 Comments »

  1. Patrick O’Neal is someone I hadn’t really noticed until recently and then he started popping up on my radar “Castle Keep”, “The Stepford Wives” and one I have to watch soon “King Rat”. I still fancy seeing the Robert Blake film with him in you wrote about last year called “Corky”.

    Never heard of this one but yet another to add to the “to watch one day” list. Interesting with spotting the little Bond theme ditty coming through and you can always see James Coburn seated in a role like this but like you say, that big old grin would sparkle just like our man Flint. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

"DESTROY ALL FANBOYS!"

Smashing System Bias Since 1972...

Movies ala Mark

With a Cast of Thousands

Classic Horrors

From silent screen to Halloween, and everything scary in between.

IDENTIKIT

The current online container for the writer Konrad Wardh

Just Hit Play

The Good, the Bad and sometimes Ugly in film

Strother Martin Film Project

What we've got here is failure to communicate

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Wolfmans Cult Film Club

Cult, B-Movies, cheesy fun films to Film Noir to classics new to me.

Talking Pulp

All things pulp and then some

cinema cities

a personal odyssey through film

Mark David Welsh

Watching the strangest movies - so you don't have to...

Scenes from the Morgue

The Lost Art of Pulp Ads: Film, Booze, Smokes & More!

Film Speech

All things film and television

Diary of A Movie Maniac

A Personal Journey Through Cinema & Television

portraitsbyjenni

My perspective on life & Classic Movie Recommendations

Statis Pro 1978 Replay

Methodically replaying every game of the 1978 baseball season!

4 Star Films

Looking deeper at the best classic movies

everythingnoir

Movies, Television, Books....Everything Noir

Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

by John Bengtson "the great detective of silent film locations" New York Times

Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Silent-ology

Uncovering the silent era

Canadian Cinephile

"The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them." - Alfred Hitchcock

Noirish

The annex to John Grant's *A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir*

Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Sunset Boulevard

Writings of a Cinephile

The Bogie Film Blog

A Film by Film Affair with Humphrey Bogart

Vienna's Classic Hollywood

Vintage Hollywood films and stars

The Film Authority

You're ten seconds from watching an amazing film...

Once upon a screen...

...a classic film and TV blog

shadowsandsatin

. . where the worlds of film noir and pre-code collide . .

hitchcockmaster

Where Suspense Lives!

Tipping My Fedora

Enjoying mystery, crime and suspense in all media

Silver Screenings

An Irreverent Blog of Old Movies

monsterminions

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Comet Over Hollywood

Home for classic movie lovers

filmgeek101

classic movie views for the classic and not-so-classic movie fan

Riding the High Country

Reviews and ramblings

Speakeasy

movies galore

"DESTROY ALL FANBOYS!"

Smashing System Bias Since 1972...

Movies ala Mark

With a Cast of Thousands

Classic Horrors

From silent screen to Halloween, and everything scary in between.

IDENTIKIT

The current online container for the writer Konrad Wardh

Just Hit Play

The Good, the Bad and sometimes Ugly in film

Strother Martin Film Project

What we've got here is failure to communicate

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Wolfmans Cult Film Club

Cult, B-Movies, cheesy fun films to Film Noir to classics new to me.

Talking Pulp

All things pulp and then some

cinema cities

a personal odyssey through film

Mark David Welsh

Watching the strangest movies - so you don't have to...

Scenes from the Morgue

The Lost Art of Pulp Ads: Film, Booze, Smokes & More!

Film Speech

All things film and television

Diary of A Movie Maniac

A Personal Journey Through Cinema & Television

portraitsbyjenni

My perspective on life & Classic Movie Recommendations

Statis Pro 1978 Replay

Methodically replaying every game of the 1978 baseball season!

4 Star Films

Looking deeper at the best classic movies

everythingnoir

Movies, Television, Books....Everything Noir

Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

by John Bengtson "the great detective of silent film locations" New York Times

Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Silent-ology

Uncovering the silent era

Canadian Cinephile

"The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them." - Alfred Hitchcock

Noirish

The annex to John Grant's *A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir*

Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Sunset Boulevard

Writings of a Cinephile

The Bogie Film Blog

A Film by Film Affair with Humphrey Bogart

Vienna's Classic Hollywood

Vintage Hollywood films and stars

The Film Authority

You're ten seconds from watching an amazing film...

Once upon a screen...

...a classic film and TV blog

shadowsandsatin

. . where the worlds of film noir and pre-code collide . .

hitchcockmaster

Where Suspense Lives!

Tipping My Fedora

Enjoying mystery, crime and suspense in all media

Silver Screenings

An Irreverent Blog of Old Movies

monsterminions

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Comet Over Hollywood

Home for classic movie lovers

filmgeek101

classic movie views for the classic and not-so-classic movie fan

Riding the High Country

Reviews and ramblings

Speakeasy

movies galore

%d bloggers like this: