The Double Man (1967)

Director: Franklin J Schaeffner
Starring: Yul Brynner, Britt Ekland, Clive Revill, Moira Lister, Anton Diffring
Music: Ernest Freeman

In East Germany, Berthold (Anton Diffring) meets some high ranking communist officials to hatch a plan to capture one of the C.I.A.s top, operatives, Dan Slater (Yul Brynner). The officials give the go ahead and one week later the plan is in operation.

In the skiing village, St Anton, in the Austrian Alps, a sixteen year old boy dies in a dizzying ski accident after he falls off a cliff on the dangerous Buler Run. The boys name is Robert Slater and he had been staying and studying at an international school run by Frank Wheatley (Clive Revill). Wheatley is an ex M.I.5 agent, and he sends a telegram to Dan Slater in Washington stating that his son has been killed.

Without further ado, Slater is on a plane and a train to St Anton. He arrives just in time for the funeral. As soon as the service is over, Slater prepares to head back to Washington. On the train, while retrieving a bottle of whiskey from his luggage, Slater discovers his sons ski jacket tucked inside. Upon examination he notices two bloody holes in the jacket. They appear to be about the same size as the prongs on skiing poles. Slater surmises that Robert was pushed and murdered. At the next train station, Slater gets off the train and catches a taxi back up the mountain to Wheatley’s school.

Slater is relentless in his pursuit of the truth. He soon ascertains that two men and a woman went up in the cable car to the top of the run on the fateful morning. He finds that the girl was Gina Erikson (Britt Ekland), and he follows her as she goes skiing. Initially she thinks he is an old womaniser who fancies his chances with a young blonde, and she is evasive. But finally he slowly wins her over and finagles an invitation to a party that night. The party is being held by wealthy, middle aged, Charlotte Carrington, who happens to be Gina’s employer.

At the party, Slater questions Gina about the events of that morning in the cable car. She says that one was wearing a ski mask so she couldn’t see his face. The other had blonde hair.

Also at the party is Berthold and his team. So far they have been stage managing and manipulating events and Slater. Here, they deliberately allow Gina to see the blonde headed man, Max Gruner (George Mikell). Of course, Gina tells Slater, and then Slater follows Gruner to the Balma Farm, where he hopes to get some answers.
With a title like The Double Man, you can expect a ‘look-a-like’ of Slater to turn up sooner or later, and it’s not too hard to guess what his purpose is. In general, the plot does not hold many surprises. Your enjoyment will come from your appreciation of Brynner’s performance. And he not an easy character to like. He is rude, aggressive and does not trust anyone. Even those that are trying to help him are treated shabbily. It’s this very trait that makes him so good at his job, and ultimately leads to his survival at the end of the movie.

The Double Man is a good spy film, but not a happy one, and light years away in tone from a Bond film. There’s no likable hero to travel with through the wintry landscape. Even the villains are low-key. There’s no underground lair or secret weapon to be retrieved. The story is about people – and not very nice people at that. I recommend this film to hard core spy enthusiasts; but for those looking for a light hearted adventure, I suggest you skip this one.

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