Crossplot (1969)

crossplotDirector: Alvin Rakoff
Starring: Roger Moore, Claudie Lange, Martha Hyer, Alexis Kanner, Derek Francis, Dudley Sutton, Bernard Lee
Music: Stanley Black
Song: ‘I’ll Find My Love’, performed by John Rowles
Song: ‘Westminster Bridge’, performed by Lois Lane

Don’t be fooled by the poster on the left. Crossplot is not a Saint film despite the logo above Roger Moore’s name. This is simply to cash in on Moore’s popularity in that role, for a foreign market. But Crossplot was put together by the same team behind The Saint television series, and as such is often accused of being ‘too small screen’, rather than a BIG screen movie adventure. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that. I see a sixties movie with a decidedly ‘mod’ feel – it has garish colours, an outrageous fashion sense, and a generous supply of girls in mini-skirts. Maybe the film does have a bit too much rear projection, but give me rear projection over crap CGI any day.

The film is set in London, where all good sixties swinging takes place. It is early morning, and a couple are strolling across a deserted Westminster Bridge, with the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in the background. A black car pulls up behind them. Two men get out. The car then drives forward, ahead of the couple. It stops and more men get out. The girl is oblivious to the danger, but the man begins to panic realising that he has been boxed in.

At that moment a Mini Moke packed with party revellers drives by. The man stops the vehicle and pushes the girl on board. But before he can get on board, the car takes off. Running alongside, he quickly hands over his newspaper to the girl, and the car takes off. Stranded and alone now, the men on either side close in on him. The solitary man ends up being heaved over the side of the bridge where he lands on a barge, dead.

Roger Moore , post The Saint/ pre-Bond, is Gary Fenn, an advertising executive. He arrives at work late, which seems to be a common occurrence due to late night clubbing and womanising. He sneaks into his office using a window washing trolley. The company is in a spin, because they have to make a pitch to a new client, and Fenn is the cornerstone in landing the account. In the boardroom as Fenn lays out his ideas, Frank Warren (Dudley Sutton), another company employee, sneaks in and changes the 8 x 10 photo of the model that has been selected for the campaign. Fenn makes his pitch and the client likes it. But Fenn has presented the wrong model to his client. Now he is stuck with her, and has the unenviable task of tracking this mystery woman down.

The girl is Marla Kougash (Claudie Lange), a Hungarian model who has over stayed her visa, and is now in hiding. Through the photos style, lighting, shadows etc, Fenn tracks down the photographer, and then acquires an address for Marla. She lives on a houseboat. Fenn finds the boat, and finds Marla but doesn’t receive much of a reception. She pushes him into the muddy river. Finally he convinces her that he is not from the immigration department and that he wants to offer her a job as a model. And he can fix up her visa problems too. She agrees to the deal.

Fenn leaves the houseboat only to be blackjacked by some friends of Marla’s. When Fenn wakes up, he is behind the wheel of his sports car. Embarrassingly though, the car happens to have been driven through the front window and display of a prominent department store. Added to this a joint sits smouldering in the cars ashtray. As the police arrive, Fenn’s story is not too convincing, and he is arrested.

Once released on bail, Fenn finally gets marla into the photo studio, and in front of a camera. Warren, the guy who substituted the photo in the first instance, works as a scenic artist and props guy. During a break in the photo session, Warren takes Marla up to the roof for a coffee. It’s here that he tries to push her over the edge. He is thwarted at the last second by Fenn. Warren runs. Fenn chases.

On the street now, the foot chase continues. A car moves alongside them, and the black leather gloved passenger produces a pistol. But rather than shoot Fenn, he shoots Warren in the back, and then tosses the gun out of the car window to Fenn, who foolishly catches it. Now his finger prints are on the weapon. The car speeds off and Fenn is left holding the evidence for all the world to see. The setup is pure Hitchcock, and the scene reminds me of the bit in North By Northwest in the United Nation building, where Cary Grant is found holding a knife over a dead body. Crossplot shares a few other similarities with the Hitchcock classic, but I won’t spoil it for you.

I found Crossplot to be very enjoyable. As I mentioned earlier the film utilises a large amount of rear projection and features a lot of studio bound shots. The film probably was done a bit on the cheap side, and looks artificial, but on a television screen I don’t think it’s too distracting.

Crossplot does seem to be neglected compared to some of Moore’s other work, but if you are a Moore fan, the film is well worth seeking out. I found it on late night television and expected very little, but got quite a thrilling, fast paced 96 minutes of entertainment. Recommended.

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  1. I watched “Crossplot” again recently and enjoyed the Mod London look of that time period, which I’ve long been fascinated by. I really liked Stanley Black’s score, which has some nice jazzy riffs with the chase after Marla’s attempted killer runs off being a standout. I also am partial to the “bustling city” piece that plays whenever Rog is going through his paces: heading to work, looking for Marla, etc. It gets played whenever Rog is in London. That music does a great job at conveying the city. Love those modernist office buildings, too. Ant clue as to where they are in London?

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