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  Puppet on a Chain Going DutchBuy this film here.
Year: 1971
Director: Geoffrey Reeve, Don Sharp
Stars: Sven-Bertil Taube, Barbara Parkins, Alexander Knox, Patrick Allen, Vladek Sheybal, Ania Marson, Penny Castagli, Peter Hutchins, Drewe Henley, Henny Orri, Stewart F. Lane, Mark Malicz, Michael Mellinger
Genre: Action, Thriller
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Interpol's Paul Sherman (Sven-Bertil Taube) has been called to Amsterdam to investigate a racket that has turned to ever more deadly means to keep their business going, and they appear to have arranged the triple killing of three recently deceased connections in the United States, with the weights on their country house clock the only things taken from the murder scene. However, making Sherman feel doubly concerned is the man he was supposed to meet in Amsterdam airport is gunned down before his eyes, before he even has a chance to speak with him, and the assassin gets away too. Finding himself at a disadvantage, he arranges a head to head with Colonel de Graaf (Alexander Knox) and his assistant, Inspector Van Gelder (Patrick Allen)...

If you're thinking by this point, cool, we get to hear the King of the Voiceovers (British) Patrick Allen putting on a Dutch accent, then sad to say it was not to be, as most of the cast kept their native tones when speaking the dialogue in this Alastair MacLean adaptation. This was made at the height of the writer's popularity where he was one of the most borrowed authors from the world's libraries, and many a dad was seen leafing through one of his paperbacks for a holiday read, so he was a natural for adapting to the movies. Put that together with MacLean's contribution to one of the biggest blockbusters of the sixties in Where Eagles Dare, and producers considered his name a sure bet at the box office.

Puppet on a Chain was a lot nastier than the versions of most of his efforts, pushed towards the more adult market with its drugs plot and edginess abundant, but even the copious amount of grisly executions was not enough to distract from the real reason this caught the imagination of the public, or a section of it at any rate. Sometimes it just takes one scene to make a cult movie, and so it was here, as the speedboat chase which appeared late on in the proceedings commanded the attention with its muscular direction and nailbiting action. If it looked as if it had been added later to spice up a movie that was flagging in terms of pace and excitement, that was down to a very obvious fact.

It was indeed included for that reason, as once the film had been completed by director Geoffrey Reeve, one look at the results and the general opinion tended to be "hmm, that wasn't very good, was it?" Therefore someone pushed the emergency director button, if there is such a thing, and Don Sharp was parachuted in to add a bit more thickear sequences, beefing up the plot and trying to make it more memorable. With Swedish folk singer Sven-Bertil Taube unlikely to bring in many punters outside of Scandinavia, they really needed it, though his love interest and fellow agent Barbara Parkins had her fans as a great beauty of her day, even if she wasn't a huge draw for the movies she opted to appear in. Aside from them, Vladek Sheybal was possibly the most recognisable participant.

Not because he was a major star, but because he had one of those distinctive faces that made him one of the esteemed "hey, it's that guy!" actors; he could be best known for musical The Apple among cult fans now, but he was a hard worker who enjoyed a long career. It is he (or his stunt double) who was part of the canal chase with Taube in the other speedboat, and it's fun to see the residents of Amsterdam looking on aghast as these epic scenes play out, much as they did in a later film, Amsterdamned, which emulated this sequence to equally fine effect. Elsewhere, it was your basic anti-drug abuse thriller, with Van Gelder taking Sherman around a drugs den and sternly intoning "Within a year, three out of ten will be dead!" about the hippies getting stoned on marijuana and supposedly coaxed onto the harder stuff with ease. The title referred to the marionettes the heroin was smuggled in, but they were obviously fond of the phrase so included various characters hung up on chains as well, to the point of absurdity. Pretty dunderheaded, but that chase was fine, as was Piero Piccioni's soundtrack.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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