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teaser Crossplot (1969)

With the worldwide success of the James Bond movie franchise in the 1960s, action thrillers throughout the decade, and particularly those produced in England, could scarcely avoid the influence of the popular spy stylings. Crossplot (1969) was probably more influenced by the Hitchcock thriller North by Northwest (1959) and by the Pop Art scene of the Swinging London of the mid-1960s than by Bond movies, and yet the tone established by the Connery films is evident throughout. In retrospect, Crossplot is primarily interesting today as the return to feature films for actor Roger Moore following his run as The Saint on television and as a dry run for taking over the Bond role himself four years later.

In Crossplot Moore plays swinging advertising executive Gary Fenn. With the help of his loyal secretary Jo Grinling (Martha Hyer), Fenn is skilled at romancing the ladies at all hours but returning to the boardroom in time to make creative design decisions on lucrative ad campaigns. When a particularly important new campaign calls for a specific exotic model, Fenn personally searches her out in Swinging London, with only her photo as a clue to her identity. He finds and hires the girl, Marla Kugash (Claudie Lange), but along the way gets mixed up with both the hippie underground as well as a group of ruthless political assassins. The complex intrigue plot is punctuated by colorful chases (in particular a helicopter pursuit during a vintage car rally), an attempted murder on a rooftop, and a climactic assassination attempt in Hyde Park.

In a correspondence with TCM, director Alvin Rakoff said that the filmmakers embarked on a lengthy search in 1968 throughout England for "a suitable leading lady" to play the Hungarian model in the film; nobody was found locally, " the producer Bob Baker sent me off to scour Europe. What an assignment! A young director visiting the capitals of the Continent to find a new sexy talent. But agents abroad were then not used to unheralded approaches. The result was mayhem, thuggery, threats, and propositions - of both money and other commodities - until after exciting visits to Paris [and] Berlin, in Rome I found Claudie Lange. I always believed my search would make a film in its own right."

Crossplot received only a lukewarm reception on both sides of the Atlantic. A Variety staff reviewer wrote that it was "a thriller with a few good jokes, red herrings, a few quick genuine thrills, chases, and some mystery. It doesn't jell because the mystery is too cloudy. Motivation of most characters is indecisive and some are badly underdeveloped." Interestingly - given Roger Moore's future career path - the Variety writer said that "Moore is not wholly convincing as a man of action."

Director Rakoff later had high praise for actor Roger Moore, telling TCM that he was " of the most equitable actors I ever worked with," and that even when the unit had to film during "a damp and dank downpour," Moore maintained an upbeat nature. Rakoff also told TCM that "...Roger was tired of the sleek hairdo he had worn for years for his role in The Saint - couldn't wait to change it. A new hair stylist was brought in, and the rigid plastered hair was replaced with the fluffy cut seen in the film. But when Roger first walked into the studio canteen with his new hairdo, nobody recognized him."

Moore did not make a successful crossover into a feature film career with Crossplot or with another film the following year, The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970), so he returned to television, playing Lord Brett Sinclair in the ITC series, The Persuaders! from 1971 to 1972. The following year, however, Moore was tapped by producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to take over the lead role in the James Bond franchise; his first film as 007 was Live and Let Die (1973).

Producer: Robert S. Baker
Associate Producer: Johnny Goodman
Director: Alvin Rakoff
Screenplay: Leigh Vance, additional scenes & dialogue by John Kruse
Cinematography: Brendan J. Stafford
Film Editing: Bert Rule
Art Direction: Ivan King
Music: Stanley Black
Makeup: John O'Gorman
Cast: Roger Moore (Gary Fenn), Martha Hyer (Jo Grinling), Alexis Kanner (Tarquin), Claudie Lange (Marla Kugash), Derek Francis (Sir Charles Moberley), Ursula Howells (Maggi Thwaites), Bernard Lee (Chilmore), Francis Matthews (Ruddock), Veronica Carlson (Dinah).
C-96m. Letterboxed.

by John M. Miller

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