Sunday, August 22, 2010

Movies That Fell Through the Cracks # 61


Has it really been five months since we've done a MOVIES THAT FELL THROUGH THE CRACKS? Wow. Sorry. Next time, tell me!

Anyway, this one is definitely a non-starter. THE NEXT MAN came out in 1976, a year before STAR WARS, when the film industry was still desperately trying to find "the next big thing" amidst diminishing box office receipts. Star Sean Connery had finally had success besting his 007 typecasting and was now doing A-List films such as THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING and ROBIN AND MARIAN with nary a mention of Bond in the reviews anymore. Then , for some reason, he chose to do THE NEXT MAN. This was a decidedly B-list spy film (the type of thing you'd think Connery would avoid) c0-written and directed by Richard Sarafian, best known for years of TV westerns. Another co-writer, the award-winning Morton S. Fine, was associated with TV spy dramas including I SPY! The whole thing was based on a story by Alan Trustman who had written Steve McQueen's BULLITT and THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR. Producer Martin Bregman is associated with hit Al Pacino pictures including SERPICO, DOG DAY AFTERNOON and later SCARFACE.

Sounds pretty good so far. But what's it about? THE NEXT MAN--Not the most descriptive title in the history of films. Well let's look at the ad, shall we? Ooooookay. That tells us...what? Another tag line used in the film's marketing was, "In the world of spying and dying, love is the ultimate weapon." Doesn't help much either.

If I may quote IMDB's summary as written by one John Barnes, "Khalil is an Arab diplomat who wants to not only make peace with Israel, but admit the Jewish state as a member of OPEC. This instantly makes him a target for a series of ingeniously conceived assassination attempts, most of which he foils with the aid of his friend Hamid and his girlfriend Nicole. But can he trust even them?"

Ah, I see now. OPEC and the Middle Eastern Crisis were in the news daily in those days. This was supposed to cash in on the interest and fears the public had. Gotcha. And the great Scotsman Connery as an Arab....sure...right. he's an actor. He can do it. AHEM.

Supporting cast included a huge bunch of folks I guarantee you've never heard of as well as character actors Charles Cioffi, Albert Paulsen (who I always thought was Pat's brother) and, of all people, Adolfo Celi. Celi, was, of course, the villainous Emilio Largo in the James Bond classic THUNDERBALL a decade earlier. Remember, Connery was absolutely adamant during this period that he wanted to get away from his association with the 007 films! What were they thinking? Not only that but according to IMDB, Celi, like GOLDFINGER's Gert Frobe, had such a thick accent and bad command of English that you had to hire a different actor to dub him in most of his English language pictures!

Then there was Cornelia Sharpe. Trotted out in the press as the flavor of the month, this former fashion model had only done a few small roles prior to her co-starring billing here as a seductive assassin. She is pretty but dull and the simplest lines were not easy for her to get through. The hype played up her steamy onscreen romance with Connery but it was weirdly Connery steaming by himself for the most part. After this, Ms. Sharpe, as with many fashion models who attempt to act, faded after failing to carry the starring roles in a few TV movies. Her minor attempt at a comeback in the 21st Century involved choosing a role in Eddie Murphy's barely released ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH!

All in all, THE NEXT MAN, for all of its "torn from the headlines" background, wasn't so much a bad movie as simply a dull and ultimately pointless one. Director Sarafian, who gave himself a cameo here, more or less gave up directing to become an actor. Sean Connery, in spite of one last return to Bondage in the next decade, became recognized as a cinematic treasure in spite of films like...THE NEXT MAN.




7 comments:

Marc Edward Heuck said...

Something notable about this otherwise forgettable movie is that it features one of the earliest film scores for the late Mark Kamen. The soundtrack album even touts "the exciting new young composer" in its liner notes.

The TV edit of this movie has been bootlegged on pseudo-PD tapes and DVDs for years - I hope that either WB (who own the Allied Artists library) or Scorpion (who have picked up some expired AA titles like INTERNECINE PROJECT and WHO?) will give it a proper release soon.

Temple of Schlock said...

Connery had just played a character named Mulai Ahmed one year earlier in THE WIND AND THE LION, so THE NEXT MAN's failure shouldn't be hinged on his casting, and Sarafian was coming off VANISHING POINT, MAN IN THE WILDERNESS and LOLLY-MADONNA XXX -- three gems we regularly run here in the Temple -- so we also hesitate to saddle him with the blame. It's just an unremarkable movie in the midst of a couple of remarkable ones. And for the record, we're not fans of ZARDOZ, THE TERRORISTS or THE WIND AND THE LION either, and we can't stand HIGHLANDER.

Booksteve said...

Was trying to spread the blame for that unremarkability around actually. As I said, not a bad film, just dull. The whole enterprise seems perhaps overthought. For the record, I quite enjoy LOLLY-MADONNA XXX (co-written by one of my favorite authors, Sue Grafton and based on her novel) and VANISHING POINT --never could stand MAN IN THE WILDERNESS-- and I even enjoyed ZARDOZ but i'll agree that WIND & THE LION was a disappointment.

Lisa_mynx said...

and Connery played an Egyptian playing a Spaniard in 'Highlander' (poop on the previous commenter)
um, i mean...
who is Sean Connery?

Kal said...

this one was on last week but it lost me in the first ten mintutes so i looked or some cartoons to watch. Hey, I want you to email me. I want to ask you something.

BHC said...

All I remember about THE NEXT MAN is Cornelia Sharpe taking a shower. THE WIND AND THE LION is a favorite of mine and I think a highlight of his non-Bond career. Not as good as THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING but I like it much better than ROBIN AND MARIAN (and I'ma big Richard Lester fan). The cast is overall great and the cinematography in TWATL is superb; my only complaint about the film is that the Raisuli says "Mrs. Pedacaris, you're a lot of trouble!" a few too many times. And Candice Bergan isn't very good.

Booksteve said...

One person I neglected to follow-up on was original writer Alan Trustman but that's okay--his follow-up came to ME! See the following post!