Moore Not Less - Crossplot
the end of his popular television series The Saint, Roger was
approached by United Artists with the offer of a three film deal. He
was keen to get back into films after years on the small screen as
Simon Templar and an action comedy espionage caper called Crossplot
(directed by Alvin Rakoff) was the result. Leigh Vance and John Kruse,
two writers from The Saint, were brought in to write the screenplay and
Roger took the lead role as Gary Fenn, an advertising executive who
ends up in a John Buchanite adventure.
film was not a success though and the two other proposed pictures for
United Artists were quietly shelved - although Roger and Robert S
Baker's production company did go on to make The Man Who Haunted
Himself. In his memoir Roger suggested that Crossplot was rushed into
production too soon without the nuts and bolts of the screenplay being
in place. Production on The Saint had only finished a month before so
you can see how difficult it must have been to make Crossplot with so
little preparation. You'll struggle to make sense of the convoluted (if
threadbare) plot in this film.
is often described as a 'dry run' for Roger Moore at James Bond - only
four years before he played 007 for the first time in Live and Let Die.
Crossplot seems more influenced though by 'mistaken identity'
Hitchcockian thrillers like North By Northwest and Swinging Sixties
comedy capers. Crossplot is chock full of sixties comedy film tropes
(like crazy chases with vintage cars, jaunty music, psychedelia, etc)
and just about the only thing you don't get in the end is a bubble
In the film, Roger is
Gary Fenn, an executive for a model agency searching for a missing
Hungarian model named Marla Kugash (Claudie Lange). He eventually finds
her but it transpires that she has heard of an assassination plot
involving a visiting African dignitary. Fenn and Marla are soon in
great danger and on the run from an international organisation bent on
this sinister plot and chaos and mayhem ensues. There isn't really any
suspense though as the film is played for laughs.
is clearly trying very hard and develops a fast pace with plenty of
complications for our central heroes. One problem the film is always
battling though is the transparently modest budget and there is some
poor effects work visible in many of the chases. The film is very
studio bound and there is some really terrible back projection work at
times where they pretend the characters are outside when they clearly
are not. This was a common money saving tactic in film and television
of the time but it looks awful - especially to modern eyes. They'll
frequently have characters chatting in a park or something but the park
is back projected behind the actors and it's obvious they are just
standing in a studio and pretending to be outside.
boyish looking Roger (with his hair combed forward - as was
evidentially the style of the era) throws himself into the action and
gives a committed and energetic performance - even dispensing some Bond
type quips. He has fist fights and is embroiled in chases and intrigue.
He's like a more comic Simon Templar at times here as Fenn is less
suave and poised and more flippant than the man with the halo. You can
understand how the producers of the Bond films might have looked at
Crossplot (and The Saint) and seen potential in Roger Moore as a safe
pair of hands to caretake 007 for a few films.
title sequence of Crossplot is quite Bond-esque and the film has that
late sixties/early seventies British television atmosphere. Sort of
like watching Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) or something like that.
Crossplot has a very 'made for television' aura and doesn't really look
or feel like a proper feature film. This is a very small screen sort of
production in terms of scope.
is essentially like watching a feature length episode of The Saint but
with much more comedy and Roger playing a more bumbling sort of
character. As the film is never that funny, the comic antics soon
become rather wearing and the jangly music that blasts away during the
chase scenes eventually becomes irritating too. There is just something
about some of these light, frothy, madcap sixties comedy/chase films
that makes them a chore to get through in the end. They are like rich
desserts that you can't eat too much of.
supporting cast is interesting in the film though. Claudie Lange, only
really known for Italian cinema, as the model, Hammer regular and voice
of Captain Scarlet Francis Matthews, Carry On stalwart Derek Francis,
Gabrielle Drake (later of UFO and Crossroads), and Dudley Sutton of
(much later) Lovejoy fame. Look fast too for Norman Eshley (best known
as George Roper's snobby Conservative voting neighbour in George &
Mildred) and Michael Robbins (Reg Varney's sarcastic bone idle
brother-in-law in On the Buses).
here is Bernard Lee - famously M to Sean Connery and George Lazenby in
the Bond films. He would of course play M in four of Roger's 007
adventures. Roger Moore had known Lee for many years and enjoyed the
chance to be in a film with him although in his book he did recall that
Lee was rather sozzled when they went to shoot one scene and made a
rather unfortunate comment about a hat Martha Hyer was wearing!
a brighter note, the genuine location work in 60s London that we do get
is enjoyable and gives an authentic sense of time and place. The scenes
set in the countryside are very pleasant to look at too. There is a
slapstick element to Crossplot that doesn't always work but it's nice
anyway to see Roger allowed to play up his comedic side more than he
was able to do on The Saint. You get some stereotypical sixties
elements in the film like (unconvincing) Beatnik hippies in a laughable
psychedelic basement bar and vintage cars (used for a chase with some
more dreadful back projection work).
best setpiece in the film is a helicopter sequence that is well staged
but - unfortunately - does tend to draw comparisons with similar
sequences in North By Northwest and From Russia with Love. Those two
films are obviously vastly superior so Crossplot suffers as a
consequence of evoking them in the memory but the chase here is decent
enough all the same.
no classic and has a somewhat rushed aura hanging over it but the film
is not bereft of charm and the cast make it more likeable than it might
otherwise have been. If you do enjoy madcap sixties action/romance
capers you might enjoy the film but don't expect Charade or North By