Thursday 21 May 2020

Movie Review: The Salzburg Connection (1972)

A hopelessly muddled mess, The Salzburg Connection is a sorry excuse for a spy thriller.

In Salzburg, American lawyer Bill Mathisen (Barry Newman) is on vacation and running an errand for his boss when he stumbles onto a mystery involving the missing husband of photo shop owner Anna Bryant (Anna Karina). The missing man was taking photos of a lake when he was murdered, and shortly thereafter Bill's client, a certain Mr. Yates, is also dead after paying for pictures of the lake.

Anna's brother Johann (Klaus Maria Brandauer) gets involved in extracting a long-buried Nazi chest from the lake. The reinforced box contains the names of Nazi agents potentially still alive and working in top government positions across the world. International spies from the CIA, Mossad and the seductive Elissa Lang (Karen Jensen) of the KGB are hot in pursuit of the secret cabinet, leading to many more murders.

The Salzburg Connection is an inexcusable and ineptly constructed flop. The adaptation of the Helen MacInnes novel lacks structure, logic and any sense of drama or tension. Director Lee H. Katzin throws undefined characters and events at the screen with haphazard intent, unable to string together a rational narrative or create any empathy for the numerous spies, counterspies and innocent bystanders.

The action moves from lacklustre scenes of surveillance and break-and-enters in Salzburg to dark sequences featuring indiscernible and ambiguous men stalking and killing each other in the forest. Most of the time, it is not clear who is doing what to whom or why, and more to the point, it is never clear why anyone should care.

The central mystery of the Nazi chest is not explained until two thirds of the way into the film, adding to the aimless structure. And once revealed, an abstract list of names is far from a compelling prize to drive all the cheap cloak-and-dagger antics.

The few positives include some pretty scenery, and on just the one occasion, Katzin injects a pulse and conjures up a clever counterintuitive car chase.

Barry Newman delivers a decent Elliot Gould-type performance, while Anna Karina as the grieving widow with a secret and Karen Jensen as the sex kitten spy both deserved better material. Unfortunately, The Salzburg Connection just offers disconnected muck.

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