I have long been a fan of this entertaining 1970s caper movie and so, even though I am a DVD devotee, I had no qualms about picking up a VHS copy. Though, a region-free DVD player comes in handy for movies like THE FOURTH PROTOCOL, HIGH ROAD TO CHINA, WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL and SILVER BEARS, I have yet to find a region where this movie is released.
However I do have a qualm. It appears that the quirky dry humor laden internal commentary by the lead Charles Grodin is missing from this VHS tape. This is an essential part of what makes this movie so engaging because although this movie is not filmed strictly as a comedy (except for the last 20 minutes or so), Grodins commentary kept the atmosphere light and carefree even in the moments of high-tension.
This movie also benefits from a truly amazing high-caliber cast. Featured alongside Grodin is Candice Bergen (later to find fame as Murphy Brown), James Mason, Trevor Howard and Sir John Gielgud. Given this cast and the clever humor and plot it really is astounding that this movie has yet to find a DVD release.
The movie centers around small-time diamond trader Howard R. Chesser who suddenly finds himself negotiating a million-pound deal (a lot more in 1974 than it sounds today). Treated with contempt by the Diamond Exchange located at 11 Harrowhouse (which carefully controls the flow of diamonds and stockpiles tons of them in order to maintain their value), Chesser jumps at the chance to snub his nose at the Exchange and particularly its snobbish Director Meecham (played by Gielgud).
Financing the deal is the multi-millionaire Clyde Massey (played by Trevor Howard), who wants a large diamond to be named "The Massey." However, things do not go according to plan and when Chesser is robbed of the diamond on his return from getting it cut he finds himself blackmailed by Massey into engineering the theft of all four tons of diamonds stockpiled at the Exchange. With the help of his free-spirited girlfriend Maren (Bergen), the gravely ill employee at the Exchange named Watts (played by Mason) and a giant vacuum hose the three manage to literally suck up all the diamonds through the wiring system. It's an ingenious plot and I liked the line of commentary from Grodin. As he sits on the roof hearing the stones going through the hose he ponders what the hourly rate might be for work like this.
Yet, all is not as it seems. And the fact that there is still a half-hour of movie left after the theft is completed should tell you that a bigger and more rousing climax is approaching, and does it ever with gun-toting men on horseback and cars chasing Chesser and Maren through the English countryside.
All in all this is a thoroughly entertaining movie and much better than some other titles that have already seen a DVD release. Come on Fox, give us this movie in our favorite format.