Aka Scacco Internazionale
Producer: Giuseppe Rosati for Cin. Ca Italiana
Director: Niny Rosati [Giuseppe Rosati]
Script and screenplay: Niny Rosati [Giuseppe Rosati]
Cinematography: Gabor Pogany
Music: Carlo Rustichelli, conducted by Bruno Nicolai
Editor: Romeo Ciatti
Cast: Tab Hunter (Patrick Harris), Daniela Bianchi (Helen Harris), Liz Barrett [Luisa Barratto] (Stefanie MacConnell), Edward G Ross [Luciano Rossi] (Besive, the Killer), Michael Rennie (George MacConnell), Bill Vanders (Clark), Franco Ressel (Inspector), Umberto Raho (Carlo), Leonardo Bruno, Carlo Delle Piane, Bill Cross, Claudio Guarino, Vladimiro Tuicovich, Mirella Panphili
When an Albanian freighter blows up off the coast of Rome there are only two survivors. One of them is badly injured, and before he can recover is killed – apparently by the other: the ship’s commander and the man who had earlier set the explosive device. When asked for an explanation as to what has happened, he declares that he will speak only to an American diplomat, MacConnell (Michael Rennie). It soon transpires that he was involved in gun running for the Russian secret services, and that he is now seeking asylum. In return for the promise of $500,000 and a new life he is willing to reveal the identity of all the Soviet agents working in Europe. Before he can name anyone, however, he is assassinated – leaving only an encrypted list for the CIA to try and decipher.
When MacConnell is also murdered, flippant journalist Patrick Harris (Tab Hunter) unwittingly becomes a suspect. He also becomes a target for the real killer (Luciano Rossi), who sees the opportunity to use him as a scapegoat. After luckily managing to escape from a locked car marooned on a level crossing, he finds himself on the run from both the authorities and his lethal pursuer. His only allies would seem to be the aristocratic Carlo (Umberto Raho), his wife Helen (Daniela Bianchi) and the deeply suspicious (and newly widowed) Stefanie MacConnell (Liz Barrett). However, not all of them are exactly what they seem.
Ostensibly a spy film, this in fact bears more of a resemblance to the brace of late-sixties crime films (The Insatiables, The Falling Man, Date for a Murder etc.) that were being produced at the time. Neither as lightweight as the early secret agent movies nor as down to earth as the seventies poliziotti, they occupy a strange cross-generic territory that’s very difficult to classify (and that generally includes a healthy dollop of giallo-ish ingredients). In this case there’s a familiar fatalistic ambiance, an unexpected sting in the tail and a priority given to ‘existential’ trappings (driving around, talking on the phone, people looking at the action through rifle sights). What there isn’t, and this is strange considering that it was the prime motivation for the genres that both anticipated and succeeded it, is action. These films were more intent upon creating a jazzed-out, dope fueled ‘feel’ rather than an adrenaline rush.
Anyone who’s had the (mis)fortune to read the The WildEye before will probably have gathered that I’m a sucker for this type of thing. You’ll probably also have gathered that I’m a sucker for anything that features Luciano Rossi – and here he has one of his largest (and comparatively ‘straightest’) roles. Having said this, however, The Last Chance didn’t really manage to engage me that much. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t veer quite far enough away from it’s Bond-ish origins – it seems to be unwilling to take the final step of forsaking straight narrative in favour of style, and as such has a tendency to drag. The last half-hour improves markedly, with a series of double-crossings and mind games being played that bring the plot enjoyable close to the realm of the totally incomprehensible.
There’s an interesting cast, including stalwarts Umberto Raho and Franco Ressel, as well as two top class italo-babes in Bianchi (From Russia with Love, Dirty Heroes) and Liz Barrett (Bloody Pit of Horror (65), Killer Kid (67)). Popular American star Tab Hunter was no stranger to euro-productions, also having worked on Antonio Margheriti’s The Golden Arrow (62) and the Spanish shot Fickle Finger of Fate (67), directed by Richard Rush. Unfortunately, he’s not overly effective, lacking the gravitas that necessary to carry the role.
This was director Giuseppe Rosati’s first film. He went on to make an enjoyably wacky Gianni Garko western (Charge, 72) and a trio of rather good crime films (The Left Hand of the Law (75), Silence the Witness (74) and Fear in the City (76), with James Mason). As such, I guess that the failings of this film could be put down to inexperience rather than incompetence.