The Kremlin Letter

Movie Information

The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Kremlin Letter at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 5, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
Genre: Convoluted Spy Thriller
Director: John Huston
Starring: Patrick O'Neal, Richard Boone, Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, George Sanders, Orson Welles
Rated: PG

John Huston’s The Kremlin Letter (1970) didn’t make much of anyone happy on its original release. The critics didn’t like it and the audience, expecting some kind of James Bond movie, were baffled and/or bored by it. For years, it’s been dismissed as one of Huston’s (many) misfires, but in reality it’s less a misfire than a seriously misunderstood one. It’s complex and morally ambiguous like Sidney J. Furie’s The Ipcress File (1965) and Ken Russell’s Billion Dollar Brain (1967)—both of which featured Michael Caine as Harry Palmer and were promoted as James Bond “for the thinking man.” But with Huston at the helm, none of those film’s stylistic flourishes are in evidence, so you’re left with a somewhat flatly directed, complex spy yarn centered around a letter (that, of course, turns out to be totally beside the point, if it exists at all) which everyone wants to get their hands on. Still, the film exerts a weird fascination in its utter complexity and duplicity, performed by a cast that makes it consistently watchable. Beyond that, there’s George Sanders as an aging drag queen—which makes it close to irresistible.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.