Moth-Eaten Cloak & Dagger
- Suspect review by Count Otto Black
If this site allowed half stars I'd award this film one and a half, because it's not absolutely dreadful, but nevertheless it's pretty bad. The Boulting brothers were best known for their comedies, so a gritty spy thriller about germ warfare was something of a departure for them. It didn't work out too well.
One of the most important elements of a spy thriller, especially one with a name like "Suspect", is to keep the audience guessing as to how guilty the various suspects may or may not be - see "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" for further details. The Boulting brothers' idea of suspense is to theoretically suggest that Peter Cushing might be a traitor, assume we'll automatically think that he might be because in horror films he played both good and bad guys, and then introduce Donald Pleasance as a totally unambiguous baddie who is in no way connected with Peter Cushing, and whose cunning plan is in no way concealed from the audience. Oh, and there's absolutely nothing resembling action or suspense until literally two minutes before the credits roll.
Ian Bannen gives a very committed performance as the only remotely complex or interesting character, but he also represents a hideously dated concept of physical disability, which is treated very crassly indeed. And when having both your arms blown off in Korea isn't tragic enough unless your ambition was to be a concert pianist, you know the scriptwriter was laying on the clichés with a shovel. Peter Cushing is as professional as ever, but makes less impression than usual because he's cast in a nothing part. Donald Pleasance is that creepy guy he always played when he was hired to be Donald Pleasance on autopilot. And Spike Milligan provides totally misplaced and embarrassingly unfunny "comedy", as does Thorley Walters as a ludicrously absent-minded spymaster.
Oh, and the plot? Given that the scriptwriter casually lumps together Communism, Fascism, and Scottish Nationalism as approximately the same thing and equally undesirable, and jokingly suggests that the list should also include Zen Buddhism just because it's foreign and weird, it shouldn't surprise you that other aspects of the film's morality are by today's standards grotesque. A woeful misfire all round, and not really worth even 78 minutes of your time.
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