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The Venetian Affair


This spy thriller has not the finest aim.

Rod Lott September 12th, 2011

Promises the cover of 1968’s “The Venetian Affair” from Warner Archive, “Murder! Spies! Women!” They left off “Disappointment!” Released in conjunction with a multi-disc set of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” feature films, the film stars Napoleon Solo himself, Robert Vaughn, but as ex-spy Bill Fenner, and with the espionage exploits as straight and bleak as “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.”

thevenetianaffair

Venetian” opens with a bang — an explosion at the table of a nuclear disarmament summit, and the person to blame is one of the men sitting there: the diplomat repping the United States. Fenner, now replete with sobriety issues, is called back into action in a plot that involves peeping telescopes, fatal gunshots, secret panels, mean Ed Asner, many pigeons and a guy sporting an eyepatch — always a red flag in such films, especially in foreign locales.

It’s nice to see Boris Karloff, however briefly, in a purely straight role, but the women give “Venetian” its eye-popping flair: Felicia Farr (aka Mrs. Jack Lemmon) and Elke Sommer, whose love for Fenner is called into question. By the end, Fenner’s so unsure which way is up that he has a breakdown over a white rat — a WTF moment up there in Vaughn’s filmography, right next to sniffing cocaine off Sybil Danning’s breast in an episode of HBO’s “The Hitchhiker.”

The movie looks great, thanks to shooting in actual Venice, but falters in pacing and getting viewers hooked in a story, so it’s easy to see why this didn’t kick off a series. However, the score by Lalo Schifrin — no stranger to such works, having penned the “Mission: Impossible" theme, among many other indelible musical works — is fantastic. —Rod Lott

 
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