aka The Man With the Deadly Lens
Director/Screenplay/Producer – Richard Brooks, Based on the Novel The Better Angels by Charles McCarry, Photography – Fred Koenekamp, Music – Artie Kane, Photographic Effects – L.B. Abbott, Special Effects – Chuck Gaspar, Production Design – Edward Carfagno. Production Company – Columbia
Sean Connery (Patrick Hale), George Grizzard (President John Lockwood), John Saxon (Homer Hubbard), G.D. Spradlin (Jack Phillindroos), Leslie Nielsen (Senator Mallory), Hardy Kruger (Helmut Unger), Robert Conrad (General Wombat), Katharine Ross (Sally Blake), Henry Silva (Rafeeq Abdullah), Dean Stockwell (Harker), Cherie Michan (Erika), Rosalind Cash (Mrs Ford), Robert Webber (Harvey)
In the near future. Top-ranking tv journalist Patrick Hale travels to the small Arab principality of Hegreb to interview his friend, the king Ibn Alwad. Hale then becomes involved in a tangled web of CIA, arms smuggling and terrorist plots as he discovers that terrorists have purchased and are planning to drop two atomic bombs on New York City. US President John Lockwood then orders the CIA to assassinate Alwad. As Hale tries to build a story, he finds that someone else has not only killed Alwad first and but has stolen the atomic bombs and is planning to use them.
This political thriller was a big flop when it came out, despite the headlined name of Sean Connery and a substantial name cast. Part of the problem was that nobody knew what way to take the film – least of all the filmmakers itself. Richard Brooks – the respected director of the likes of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), In Cold Blood (1967) and Looking for Mr Goodbar (1977) – is never sure whether he is making a straight international thriller or a satiric farce. There is an excessively complicated plot that weaves various factions and counter-plots in a sprawling tangle that becomes increasingly difficult to follow – it is never entirely clear who took the bombs or assassinated the king, for instance.
At odds with the straight thriller elements seems to be a lurking sense of black humour, which at times takes the film in the direction of the great political satire The President’s Analyst (1967). There is the opening parody of tv gameshows where people can kill others in tv simulation – “I’d rather live with guilt than my parents,” says one contestant. “Are they watching this broadcast?” “God, I hope so.” However, this scene has nothing to do with the rest of the film and seems out of place. There is the odd blackly comic line or scene peppered throughout but most of the time it feels like Richard Brooks straining for effect.
Between the sprawling plot and the hit-and-miss sense of black humour, most of the film falls flat. Sean Connery has likable charisma as always, although he definitely indulges in self-parody – at the end of the film he throws away his toupee just before he parachutes out of the plane into combat! The promotion for Wrong is Right tried to make it seem that Connery was back in a James Bond type role, with a poster featuring Connery surrounded by luscious women while brandishing a gun that on closer inspection turned out to be a video camera.
Particularly good is George Grizzard who has a doggedly likeable quality as The President – there is a mercilessly funny sequence where he tries to order an obstinate CIA director to conduct an assassination. There is also good support from the likes of Rosalind Cash and Leslie Nielsen. The Muzak score is very irritating.