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Senior Shackster
792 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Big Brother is watching you. That's the theme of this caper film from
1971 although it's not really part of the plot and turns out to be a red
herring. Pre-dating Watergate by a year, the concept of government
agencies spying on citizens was nothing new although the public was
generally unaware of it until the Nixon scandal. FDR was the first President
to have the White House bugged and used agencies and Federal power
to intimidate political opponents (i.e. Walt Disney). Quite a contrast from
the 'fireside chats' persona he adopted for the media. JFK had the FBI
spy on Martin Luther King. Others like Nixon and Clinton abused their
power too. Nixon had his 'enemies list' and Clinton used the IRS to audit
talk radio hosts who criticized his policies.

In the case of this film various government agencies covertly and
illegally wiretap and spy on some criminals released from prison including
Sean Connery and Christopher Walkin. I'm afraid nothing much has changed
since this movie was produced and the film is currently being remade. They'll
probably work in "The Patriot Act" abuses which gives the Fed open ended
discresion to target who they want providing they are labeled as 'terrorists'.
Abuses of power are so common place from both political parties and the
American media is so biased so one seems to care anymore because the
partisans engage in 'selective prosecution'. It's bad if the opponent does
it but okay if your politician does it. As a result the public tunes everyone out.
So even though this picture was made decades ago, the basic premise
is still topical.

"The Anderson Tapes" was based on the entertaining book by Lawrence
Sanders. I read it and saw the film in 1971. It was quite a departure
for Connery but a wise career move. After the shabby script of "You
Only Live Twice" (which was still an entertaining but campy movie), Connery
quit the Bond series. He was afraid of getting typecast as 007 and wanted
to try different roles. However a million dollars changed his mind and he
returned in 1971 for "Diamonds are Forever" which is my favorite picture
in the series. He made another feature that year that was a
complete contrast to the Bond character. In this movie he plays a tough
and hardened thief who prepares a major heist of a building whose residents
are wealthy. Connery began losing his hair after "From Russia With Love"
and wore a series of convincing toupees from then on. However, he decided
to go without one for this movie and it was a bit of a shock. He looks fairly
ragged and aged which was appropriate for the role. Connery has such
a unique screen presence that you still sympmathize with his character even
though it has no redeeming qualities.

The movie was directed by Sidney Lumet who was very good with actors
since he started in the days of live television. Unfortunately, many of his
movies lack style and are really 'talking head' stories like "12 Angry Men".
Nothing inherantly wrong with that other than they aren't particularly
cinematic. However, there were a couple of exceptions in his output and
this is one of them (the other is "Murder on the Orient Express). This movie
has an interesting structure and some good compositions and suspense when
the police are tipped about the robbery and make their move while the caper
is under way. I also enjoyed the 'flash forward' interviews with the victims
which was a new technique back then. The first time it was used was in
"Bonnie and Clyde" four years earlier.

Aside from Connery's excellent performance, Walkin already displays his
bizarre 'act' in his first movie which includes an unusual way of talking
and twitchy mannerisms. He's quite interesting to watch. Maltin Balsam
gives an over the top performance as a gay antiques dealer who becomes
part of the team. Dyan Cannon (one of Cary Grant's ex-wives) plays
Connery's part time mistress and Alan King is the mafia henchman who
finances the operation with a catch...Connery has to kill one of the
hitmen he's forced to utilize as quid pro quo.

The movie might come off as a bit dated in it's editing and music score
by Quincy Jones but perhaps that's part of it's appeal. It's a period piece
from another era. The cinematography by Arthur Ornitz is functional.
He was an advocate of 'natural lighting' and 'source lighting' rather than
'painting with light' like Freddie ("Lawrence of Arabia") Young. He was
my cinematography teacher at NYU back in the seventies although I took
the Young approach to camerawork in my own features.

The DVD itself is pretty scant in terms of what's on it. The 16:9 anamorphically
enhanced image is okay but don't expect rich colors or fine grain. It's mildly
grainy and desaturated but that was the style of the time. In the seventies
many cameramen rejected the classic Hollywood studio look of the past claiming
that the new technique was more 'realistic'. I never bought that arguement
since film stock doesn't photograph what the human eye sees and has a different
color spectrum. In any event, this movie looks like a typical "Color by De Luxe"
release of that time period. Acceptable but not aesthetically pleasing to the
eye. Fortunately there is enough narrative drive to become involved with the
plot and characters despite the less than thrilling camera work. The sound
is a standard mono mix which is okay.

Sony has released the film as part of something called "Martini movies" which
doesn't make much sense for this title. The only connection is to Connery's
Bond character which liked them 'shaken not stirred' but this role is the polar
opposite of 007. No commentaries even though most of the cast is still around.
Just a trailer. The original poster art from 1971 was quite good and was a variation
of the Bond images of Connery with a gun. Unfortunately, the art work on this
DVD doesn't use it. In fact it's one of the worst cover designs I've seen and
makes the picture look low budget and cheesey which it isn't.

I still recommend this movie to heist buffs and Connery fans. It's not a pretty
picture but it's an entertaining flick with some plot twists and stylish editiing.
Technology buffs will have fun identifying the equipment at the time, much
of it supplied by Ampex. You'll see ancient black and white video recording
equipment, reel to reel audio tape, 16mm cameras and all types of wire taps.

In summary: Picture quality B, sound design B, cinematography B-,
performances, story and screenplay A-.
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