I was pleased to discover that Amazon carried the DVD of this 1972 British spy film.
I had only seen (in part) one other version and that was a version shown on network television years ago. For some reason, the TV version in the USA included additional scenes, apparently filmed in New York. I know that it has been a trend lately to release DVD versions (and even theatrical versions) of films called the extended cut, the director's cut, or a version with an alternate ending.
The early version of INNOCENT BYSTANDERS was, I believe, one of those theatrical films with new scenes added to the televised version to pad it out to fit into a network time slot that could include commercials. The most shameless example of this is the Hammer film KISS OF EVIL or KISS OF THE VAMPIRE which has newly (and insipid) scenes filmed for the televised showing. In some cases, scenes in the original theatrical films are often expurgated because they include footage (usually violent) that is considered by heavy-handed censors to be inappropriate for the sensibilities of mainstream America who are not yet accustomed to cable programs. The version of INNOCENT BYSTANDERS that I saw on network TV includes a scene where John Craig (Stanley Baker) breaks the arm of a watchman and causes him to faint. Also included is a scene where a young girl touches his arm in affection and Craig responds: "What are you doing?" He tells his companion that feelings were cut out of him when he was tortured in the past.
These two scenes were not included in the DVD released by Amazon, which is, apparently, the theatrical version. A reader may point out that I, perhaps, confused two separate films that both starred Stanley Baker. This is not the case because I clearly remember Baker (as agent Craig) telling his companion -- an Israeli agent portrayed by Geraldine Chaplin -- about his physical and mental problems. It seems a bit questionable that such an innocent bystander as Ms.Chaplin would want to seduce an impotent "old" agent as Craig, but this is, in fact, what happens.
At breakfast the next morning -- after his apparent renaissance -- she tells Craig that he should be grateful for her restoring his ability. He thanks her, but a bit cynically. She adds that perhaps she wasn't "that good," and he responds to her compliment-fishing by confirming that she was. Later, when she is tortured by a sadistic British agent sent along to undercut Craig's efforts (Derrin Nesbitt from THE NAKED RUNNER and WHERE EAGLES DARE), Craig is quite sympathetic and reveals important information to spare her further pain and humiliation (what Nesbitt does to Ms. Chaplin is not clear because his torturing takes place off-screen).
Nesbitt is effective as one of the agents sent on the same mission as Craig (supposedly without the latter's knowledge). The other agent is an image of compassion and gentility when compared to Nesbitt; she is played by Sue Lloyd (the female love interest in THE IPCRESS FILE -- one of the greatest spy films ever), who is as accurate with a gun as Craig but a bit quicker. Stanley Baker, however, is superb as the no-nonsense, non-romantic aging agent who is betrayed by his non-trusting and not-trustworthy superior Loomis, stiff-upper-lipped Donald Pleasence. Also on hand is the CIA in the person of Dana Andrews. As a hero from 1940s and 1950s films, Andrews seems out of place here -- but perhaps it is only his non-matching fright wig that he perhaps sports to take our attention away from Stanley Baker's own hairstyle that seems that it does not belong.
I have been a fan of Stanley Baker since he portrayed Achilles in the 1955 international epic HELEN OF TROY. Despite his dark hair (Homer's Achilles was supposed to be blond as he is played by Gordon Mitchell and Brad Pitt), Baker is the best on-screen Achilles ever -- capturing the fury of that semi-god from Greece mythology. I also like Baker in HELL DRIVERS (which features a minor role by Sean Connery), ZULU, IN THE FRENCH STYLE, and SANDS OF THE KALAHARI, which I will soon order from Amazon. I have nothing against long hair (I often wear my own blond hair long), but somehow the style as worn in INNOCENT BYSTANDERS doesn't somehow seem suited to Mr. Baker as an "older", black-haired agent. Perhaps he sports this style to make clear that he is an anti-Bond. He (like Michael Caine in the five Harry Palmer films) doesn't use ridiculous gadgets supplied by Q branch but relies instead on his wits and marksmanship. The sequence where he shoots fellow agent Nesbitt in the foot is not to be missed (Kudos to Nesbitt or his stunt double for his flipping forward after being hit by Craig's bullet).
The ending seems to come rather quickly, but we, at least, know that he outsmarts his double-crossing superior Pleasence (an incredibly unlikeable superior in the mode of Stewart Granger who double crosses RIchard Burton and the other mercenaries in THE WILD GEESE) by flying to Beirut where he may (the romantics among us hope) meet up again with Ms. Chaplin. Don't be fooled by the glitzy, flashy, pop-culture artwork on the cover of the DVD of INNOCENT BYSTANDERS. This is not a Dean Martin humor-fest (like we see in the Matt Helm romps) but a fairly gritty spy tale not unlike the Harry Palmer films. It has plenty of action, but the action is believable and plot-enhancing.
Check it out. In the meantime, let us hope that the fad of releasing many versions of a film in order to milk dry every possible penny from DVD sales will eventually end. Let's make one version of a film and stick with it. After all, how many versions of the "Mona Lisa" do we find?