The High Commissioner [Import]
Thrills and suspense abound in this crackling good tale (Los Angeles Times) of political intrigue and murder! Starring a rough and likable (The Hollywood Reporter) Rod Taylor and an excellent (Variety) Christopher Plummer The High Commissioner will exhilarate you! Aussie detective Scobie Malone (Taylor) accepts a mission to fly to London to arrest Sir James Quentin (Plummer) a high-level Australian commissioner wanted down under for murder. But when Malone arrives he finds that the amiable Quentin is not only the key in groundbreaking peace negotiations but also the target of an assassin himself! His mission hopelessly changed Malone must find a way to escort and protect Quentin while routing out this new enemy or face deadly international consequences!System Requirements: Runnign Time 101 MinFormat: DVD MOVIE Genre: MYSTERY/SUSPENSE Rating: NR UPC: 027616913227 Manufacturer No: 1007186
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Rod Taylor as Scobie Malone
Christopher Plummer as Sir James Quentin
Lilli Palmer as Lady Sheila Quentin
Camilla Sparv as Lisa Pretorius
Daliah Lavi as Maria Cholon
Clive Revill as Joseph
And now on to the movie itself - a political thriller set in London in the 1960s, when tensions between East and West were at a dangerous high. The plot revolves around Sir James Quentin, the Australian high commissioner to London, played with elegance and style by Christopher Plummer, who is the chairman of an international conference that attempts to bridge political divides through trade. "Peace through plenty" is how one of the conference participants puts it. But although Sir Quentin is quite successful in his negotiations, not all is well. Someone close to him is leaking confidential information, trying to discredit the conference. Shadowy assasins have an eye on the commissioner and the politics around the conference are a tangled web.
On top of that, in the middle of the conference sergeant detective Scobie Malone (a great tough-but-good-guy portrait by Rod Taylor) flies in from Australia, sent by Quentin's political rival, the premier of New South Wales, to arrest him for the alleged murder of his former wife. But did he do it? Malone himself and his boss at the CID don't think so. The inquiry was made by the politically motivated premier's people and not by the CID. However, a mandate of arrest was issued and Malone is supposed to bring the commissioner back to Australia. Quentin asks for more time to finish the conference - a few days that see two assasination attempts, Malone becoming Quentin's private security agent, and endless deception and intrigue, spearheaded by the charming and dangerous Maria Cholon, an underworld queen who has an interest in seeing Quentin dead and the conference aborted. I won't tell you how it all ends because thrillers you know the ending of beforehand aren't that much fun ;).
Although the tone of the movie is mostly serious, there are enough moments of levity provided by the interactions between true-blue Australian Malone and Sir Quentin's stuffy British butler Joseph, delightfully played by Clive Revill. Cast performances are excellent across the board, including Lilli Palmer as Sir Quentin's sensitive, worried wife (Lilli Palmer and Christopher Plummer had played another ill-fated couple before: she had played Jocasta to his Oedipus in "Oedipus King"). Camilla Sparv plays Sir Quentin's smart, sharp and protective secretary with just the right combination of professionalism and feistiness. Daliah Lavi is suitably langurous, seductive and revengeful as the "evil beauty", and Burt Kwouk of "Pink Panther" series fame makes an appearance as her lieutenant.
As for the DVD quality, the video is crisp and beautifully toned, much improved over the VHS version which is out of print now (under the name "Nobody Runs Forever"). The sound is Dolby mono but of good quality.
Based on the novel eponymous novel by Jon Cleary. Recommended!
Rod Taylor does a fine job playing Malone, a beefy, straightforward cop. Malone also is smarter than many people at first expect him to be. Christopher Plummer turns in another polished performance as the high commissioner, a man dedicated to the talks, in love with his second wife and with enough steel in him that you're not sure whether he is a killer or not. Lili Palmer, one of my favorite actors, as Lady Quentin is beautiful and fragile, and may have secrets of her own.
The murder story is really background to the thriller story, but I wish it had been more heavily emphasized. It would have made for a much more complex film. On balance, though, the movie is worth watching. The DVD transfer is a little soft and the audio should have been tweaked up. That, combined with the Australian accents, at times requires careful listening.
If you like reading mysteries, I'd recommend the book by Jon Cleary that this film was made from. Its original title was Nobody Runs Forever, but was reissued as The High Commissioner when the movie came out. Malone appears in a number of Cleary's books. One I like a lot is Helga's Web.
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