The Kremlin Letter (1970)

Genres - Spy Film, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Political Thriller  |   Release Date - Feb 1, 1970 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 113 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Craig Butler

Although it has its partisans, most consider The Kremlin Letter to be a big disappointment. Kremlin does get some points for its "de-glamorization" of international intrigue, in that it is more than willing to show the horrid and immoral activities that both the "good guys" and the "bad guys" engage in. Indeed, Kremlin actively questions whether it's possible to tell the good guys from the bad guys in the Cold War, but that tantalizing query is wrapped up in a plot that is too complex and tangled to ever be unraveled in a mere 125 minutes. Indeed, much of Kremlin simply doesn't make sense, due to the fact that the plot of the novel upon which it is based is simply too dense to be translated to the screen in a film of normal length. That said, however, director/co-scenarist John Huston could have done a much better job of translating the material to the screen. Huston must have been drawn in by the book, but he doesn't seem to have his heart in the project. The film makes good use of some unusual location shooting, but there's very little else to suggest Huston cared too much about the end result. Certainly the cast isn't given much help, despite the fact that collectively they are a truly impressive bunch. Yet only Richard Boone really shines, turning in a very fine performance that leaves the rest of the actors in the dust. This is especially true of Patrick O'Neal, who lacks the charismatic "heft" the part demands and becomes quite boring after a while. Still, there are those who will greatly enjoy Kremlin for its twisted plotting and cynicism -- or for the rare opportunity of seeing George Sanders as a transvestite.