The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Before Roger Moore became universally known as James Bond, the British actor put his dues in. For seven successful years, he starred in TV's The Saint, making a name for himself. But after the show's run? Several years of a more hit-or-miss nature, including 1969's Crossplot, a major swing and a miss.

As a highly successful advertising executive, Gary Fenn (Moore) has stepped in it in a big way. With a major client breathing down his neck, Gary has committed to a model he's never seen before, much less heard of her. The model's name is Marla Kugash (Claudie Lange), a beautiful young Hungarian woman about to be deported because she hasn't been working enough. Gary manages to track her down only to step in it even more. Marla is on the run, assassins hunting her down after she accidentally overheard a secret plot. Now he not only has to save his job, but his neck and the girl too.

This is the type of story that sounds appealing just hearing about the plot. Accidental spies and secret agents have provided some solid movies over the years. But in the age of the spy movies -- the 1960s and 1970s -- this one is just bizarre. There are moments of actual drama and action with intensity and adrenaline. Mostly though, there are far too many moments of half-assed laughs, pitiful, overdone attempts at those laughs involving physical humor, and a general feeling of campiness that would have been more at home in an hour-long TV show. Physical humor has to be very precise to work and executed well. Crossplot has none of that. At one point, Moore and Lange are driving an old-timey car (dressed time appropriate) by a machine-gunning helicopter. How could that not be funny? The Keystone Cops would be pissed.

Instead, we get a 96-minute movie that feels much longer and does have the distinct feel of a TV show. Translated? It's cheap, and it doesn't hide the cheapness well. The sets appear very stagey and look like they were made for about $10 or so. Almost the entire movie was shot on indoor sets, although the ventures outside -- few that they are -- into 1969 London are pretty cool. Think the real life Austin Powers. That would be tolerable, but the use of greenscreens (inserting Moore and the cast "into" the action) looks about as ridiculous as you'd expect. The late 1960s lifestyle of drugs, psychedelic clothes, and grooviness in general adds to the camp factor. 'Crossplot' just doesn't have much going for it in any department.

Despite the almost uniformly negative reviews I read prior to watching, I forged on because I'm a Roger Moore fan. Even in his truly bad Bond movies (I'm looking at you Moonraker), he's a likable, entertaining star. Unfortunately here, the source material pulls him down in a big way. Moore got laughs by being smooth, by being suave and throwing one-liner one after another. Physical humor ain't his thing, especially forced, truly awkward physical humor. As for co-star Claudie Lange.....she sure is pretty. Acting? Eh, but she sure is nice to look at, and that's what the story runs with. She appears in various stages of undress, usually something draped over her chest. Lange does have a unnecessary but pleasant surprise of a nude scene late, randomly sitting in a tub and standing up. It is clearly an essential scene for development.

None of the cast manages to stand out, but there are some other recognizable faces around. Martha Hyer is Jo, Marla's supposedly sweet aunt looking out for her niece. She ends up being the bad guy, but it's such a stupid gimmick it makes no impact. Alexis Kanner is a relative bright spot as Tarquin, a hippie protester and friend of Marla's. In a cool link to the Connery and Moore 007 flicks, also look for Bernard Lee in a few scenes. Lee would co-star with Moore in four Bond movies. A movie that falls short on basically every level imaginable. Even Moore and Lange's.....talents? couldn't save this one.

Crossplot <---trailer (1969): */****

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