NEAR MINT - UNSEALED
A network of older spies from the West recruits a young intelligence officer with a photographic memory to accompany them on a mission inside Russia. They must recover a letter written by the CIA that promises American assistance to Russia if China gets the atomic bomb. Directed by John Huston.
16 x 9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Run time: 120 min
Special Feature: Isolated Score Track
DVD booklet excerpts by Julie Kirgo:
In the work of filmmaker John Huston, failure is the drumbeat thudding relentlessly beneath the music of every narrative. The eccentric villains clawing for “the stuff that dreams are made of” in The Maltese Falcon, the hard-scrabble prospectors in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the yearning low-lifes of The Asphalt Jungle, the lonely Westerners who are The Misfits, the clueless adventurers of The Man Who Would Be King: they, along with virtually every significant character in this idiosyncratic writer-director’s oeuvre, are strivers on patently un-heroic quests that invariably seem doomed from the outset. Even when they scratch out a success—as in The African Queen—it’s by dint of accident as much as effort. The miracle is that, time after time, Huston takes these losers with their dismal prospects, and from such unlikely material crafts films that are equal parts lively entertainment and high art.
Obsessed as he was, thematically, with failure, for the first few decades of his career, Huston enjoyed near-unrivalled success. As a flourishing screenwriter at Warner Brothers, he made a deal with Jack Warner: if his next screenplay produced a hit, he would be allowed to direct. High Sierra (1941), helmed by Raoul Walsh, became a smash, made Humphrey Bogart a full-fledged star, and gave Huston the opportunity to both write and direct The Maltese Falcon that same year. A glittering string of successes followed. In 1949, he would snag a pair of Oscars for writing and directing Sierra Madre; over the next decade, he would be Academy-nominated with metronomic regularity. Perhaps more significantly, from a careerist perspective, his films performed consistently well at the box office.
But by the mid-1960s, Huston—like many great filmmakers before and since—had slipped into an acquaintance with failure, Hollywood style. “There is no doubt about the meaning of the word ‘failure’ in the motion picture industry,” he would write in his 1980 autobiography, An Open Book. “The industry operates for profit, and a failure is a film that doesn’t make money.” Casting about for a lifeline, he hit upon The Kremlin Letter, a project that, from a commercial point of view, seemed all up-side.
“I thought The Kremlin Letter had all the makings of a success,” he would remember. “The book by Noel Behn had been a best-seller. It had, moreover, all those qualities that were just coming into fashion in 1970—violence, lurid sex, drugs. The cast was exceptionally strong…and the performances couldn’t have been bettered. It was extremely well photographed [by Ted Scaife]—there was a virtuosity, a shine to it. Gladys Hill [Huston’s longtime assistant, who would also co-write The Man Who Would Be King, 1975] and I wrote the script, which I considered quite good, though in retrospect it was perhaps overcomplicated.”
For the complete notes see the DVD booklet!