Innocent Bystanders Film Details
Overview: Experienced British spy must retrieve a defecting Soviet scientist from Turkey. When a pretty female innocent bystander gets kidnapped by mistake by his enemies, he feels responsible and decides to help her as well.
Tagline: In this business there are no Innocent Bystanders
Review: The late James Mitchell is best remembered as the creator of ‘Callan’, a long-running television spy series that starred Edward Woodward. Not so well remembered is a quartet of novels he wrote featuring another spy – John Craig of ‘Department K’. These were ‘The Man Who Sold Death’, ‘Die Rich Die Happy’, ‘The Money That Money Can’t Buy’ and ‘The Innocent Bystanders’. The latter was filmed in 1972, starring my fellow countryman, the late, great Stanley Baker. A scientist called Kaplan has escaped from a Siberian work-camp, and gone to ground in Turkey. Kaplan is close to perfecting a means of transforming arid desert into tropical rain-forests. U.S. Intelligence agency Group Three wants him but, fearing a security leak, cannot use its own men, so its head Blake ( Dana Andrews ) calls on Loomis ( Donald Pleasence ) of Britain’s ‘Department K’. Loomis sends for John Craig, a tough, hard-as-nails agent who suffered torture on his last mission and is now considered expendable. He uses Craig as a decoy, while two other agents, Royce ( Derren Nesbitt ) and Benson ( Sue Lloyd ) carry out the assignment. Craig’s first inkling that something is badly wrong comes when he visits New York and finds that the gun he had been promised by Loomis has not been provided. At the apartment block where Kaplan’s brother’s lives, he is brutally attacked. Then Group Three pick up Craig and subject him to a mock torture session. Craig is so psychologically disturbed that he cracks even though he is experiencing no physical pain. A Group Three agent ( Cec Linder ) comes up with an interesting analogy: “You can take a knife and sharpen it and sharpen it until it will cut anything, including silk scarves. Then one day you drop it on a stone floor. The knife still cuts, but the silk scarves are safe.”. ‘Innocent Bystanders’ begins rather like ‘A Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovitch’, but following a pitched gun battle moves to London. As Loomis and Blake stroll through the city, they exchange information, and this is intercut with shots of Craig and Benson firing at targets. This change in styles is rather disconcerting, but fun. Good editing by Alan Patillo, best known for his work on Gerry Anderson’s television shows. As John Craig, Baker is reminiscent of another with that surname – Daniel. Like the most recent incarnation of 007, Craig is good at his job, but not infallible. He was a karate black belt in the books but that is not mentioned here. The fights in this movie are Bond-like. I wish the producers had resisted the temptation to trendify Craig though. His white suits, long hair and ‘Yosser Hughes’-style moustache would doubtless make this film a hilarious experience for modern audiences. Geraldine Chaplin is a surprising choice for the role of ‘Miriam Loman’, the American girl whom Craig kidnaps and takes with to Turkey. I say surprising because, how can I put this, she is rather…plain. The glamour is provided by Sue Lloyd as ‘Benson’. As ‘Loomis’, the late Donald Pleasence gives a chilling performance, even his request for gooseberry fool and custard sounds unnerving. Derren Nesbitt’s ‘Royce’ seems to have been modelled on ‘Toby Meres’ from ‘Callan’. Like Meres, Royce is young, hot-headed, and keen to show his superiority over the older man Craig. Warren Mitchell plays another of his funny foreigners, an Australian barman named ‘Omar’, who habitually refers to Craig as ‘pommy bastard’. The director was Peter Collinson, responsible for the original ( and best ) version of ‘The Italian Job’. He keeps the whole thing moving nicely, sprinting from one exciting set-piece to another. This is not a Bond-style adventure as such ( no gadgets etc. ), but John Keating’s music at times evokes Bond. When Craig enters a bank vault, for example, you think that the title theme from ‘Thunderball’ is about to intrude on the soundtrack. The song – ‘What Makes The Man?’ – is in the middle of the film, and would have worked had it not been ‘sung’ by its lyricist, the late Norman ‘Hurricane’ Smith, the world’s worst vocalist. ‘Innocent Bystanders’ is hard to come by, but for fans of Stanley Baker and ’70’s spy thrillers is worth seeking out. As are the James Mitchell books ( credited to James Munro ). One wishes that they had also been filmed, with Baker again as ‘Craig’.
Language: English, Russian
Duration: 111 min
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime
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