A friend of mine recently suggested “The Venetian Affair” as a future book title. I pointed out that Andrea de Robilant had got there before me with “A Venetian Affair” and I didn’t think simply changing the indefinite article to the definite would be sufficiently different. And then it turned out that there had also been a film of that name released in 1967.
I have to say that I’d never even heard of this before which – if you look at the talent involved – might seem strange. At any rate, it was a film I thought I needed to check out.
So, what’s it like? Well, there’s a pretty amazing cast of cult film actors but they’re all a bit underused. It’s always nice to see Elke Sommer but she doesn’t appear until halfway through and – spoiler alert for 50 year old film – doesn’t make it to the end credits. Boris Karloff is good value as a not-mad-for-once scientist, although I imagine his scenes must have been filmed in the US : the grand old man was in very fragile health at the time, and I doubt he’d have been up to location filming. Elsewhere, Karl Boehm from ‘Peeping Tom’ is suitably villainous, and there are cameos from Luciana ‘Thunderball’ Paluzzi, Ed ‘Lou Grant’ Asner and Roger ‘Harry Mudd’ Carmel. In the lead, we have Robert Vaughn, fresh from his huge success in The Man from UNCLE – and therein lies part of the problem with this film.
Given the title, Vaughn’s presence and, indeed, the poster art, audiences might have been given to expect an UNCLE style caper. Instead it aims for Ipcress File seriousness and ends up falling between two stools – the plot is too silly for a Cold War thriller, but neither is it very much fun. And Vaughn himself, obviously wanting to distance himself from Napoleon Solo, gives a low-key, downbeat performance that might suit the tone of the film but doesn’t really play to his strengths.
Do you need to see it? Well, it’s by no means essential viewing, but there are some compensations. The location filming is excellent, with some wonderful overhead shots of the marina at San Giorgio Maggiore, and the opening scene – where Boehm meets a contact in an otherwise completely empty Piazza San Marco – is so good it leads you to expect a better movie. There’s also a typically drop-dead cool score from Lalo Schifrin. But, at the end of the day, it’s all just a little bit dull. Worth watching, perhaps, but don’t expect too much.