Jane Kerrell (Eva Renzi) is holidaying in the South of France, hoping to leave her drab existence in London behind for a while, when she starts to believe she is being followed. As she drives down through the mountain roads to her hotel she notices a white Mercedes tailing her, and when she reaches a precarious stretch of the road the driver starts trying to force her off it and over the cliff. She stops just in time, but when the police arrive and she tells all to the inspector back at the station, they are sceptical and with no evidence unsure of what they can really do...
Drawn from a novel by Ben Healey, Taste of Excitement begins as a "they won't believe me" thriller, then halfway through transforms into an espionage suspense piece as if there were no difference between the two. Say this for Don Sharp, the co-writer and director here, he knew how to approach this kind of nuts and bolts genre effort, keeping the pot of tension simmering away without being showy. This might have been more memorable had it enjoyed a more vital plot, as it was too often it resembled something to pass the time on Sunday night television of its day.
But where formerly episodes of The Saint or The Champions or whatever relied heavily on placing its cast against a projection of the exotic locale they were meant to be visiting, Sharp and his team had the advantage of utilising genuine locations on the French Riviera which did at least offer the British public something they would not have seen much of in real life. That was all about to change as package holidays became the in thing, but Taste of Excitement arrived just before that craze took off, perhaps showing the audiences what they had in store should they care to splash out on a proper vacation.
I mean, this would have been a far less exciting prospect if Jane had opted for a caravan holiday in Scotland, peering out of the window at the pouring rain, so it was just as well that the galvanising title referred to as much the visuals and landscape as it did what happened to her when she got there. For some reason Renzi was cast as a mousy Englishwoman, yet kept her German accent which added a layer of intrigue that turned out to be unexplored by the following plot, and she also had to spend half the movie dressed in dowdy clothes and without makeup to underline that Jane was not accustomed to all this electricity in the air.
She meets an artist staying there, Paul Hedley (David Buck), who is just as unconvinced as the cops at first, but then notices she really is being followed - by none other than Peter Bowles. He plays a dodgy Italian who protests his innocence, but we can tell he's hiding something, and the clues accumulate to demonstrate that Jane is in actual danger, even if it has done her image the power of good thanks to the makeover Paul persuades her to have. Now she's quite the glamourpuss, lounging around in beachwear and gambling in slinky evening gowns, reaching the stage where she matches the attractiveness of her environment. But the baddies are not interested in this caterpillar becoming a butterfly, they want information - though does Jane even know what they're on about? Taste of Excitement wasn't too bad, but it was efficient rather than pulse-pounding, professional all the way but unremarkable at this remove. Music by Keith Mansfield, with a very groovy brass-led theme.