CANNON MONTH 2: S*P*Y*S (1974)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cannon didn’t produce this movie but did release it on video in Germany as Cannon Screen Entertainment.

Ah, the Cold War.

Well, it never really ended, but let’s look back on when it was really being fought in 1974.

An accident causes two KGB agents to be mistakenly killed during a failed attempt to help a Russian athlete named Sevitsky (Michael Petrovich) defect to the West. That means the U.S. has to have two agents killed to settle the scales of political justice with Bruland (Donald Sutherland) and Griff (Elliot Gould) picked as the patsies. They aren’t friends but must learn to work together if they want to survive.

S*P*Y*S* was directed by Irvin Kershner, who made way better movies than this like The Empire Strikes BackThe Eyes of Laura Mars, Never Say Never Again and RoboCop 2. I kind of love that he played a waiter in Steven Seagal’s only directorial effort, On Deadly Ground.

This was written by Lawrence J. Cohen and Fred Freeman, who wrote Start the Revolution Without Me together, as well as Malcolm Marmorstein, who along with writing Pete’s Dragon was also a writer on Dark Shadows.

Originally called Wet Stuff, this was changed to have those stars in the title to attempt to get back the magic of Gould and Sutherland in M*A*S*H*. Kershner wasn’t happy and said, “I started to make a film that was a little black comedy, and I empathized that it had no relationship to Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H*, in which, of course, they’d been teamed so brilliantly. The original title was Wet Stuff meaning blood, and the studio promised that there would be no attempt to compare it to M*A*S*H* in the publicity. Because it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t that kind of freewheeling film. There was no time, nor the budget to do that sort of film anyway. Now, there were many places where they hadn’t seen M*A*S*H*, like parts of South America, Scandinavia, or Germany. In those areas they lovedS*PY*S*. Actually, the film made a lot of money, and it got some great reviews in countries where it wasn’t compared to M*A*S*H*.”

I mean, they even used the same voice over artist in the trailer!

I also love that Variety cut to the chase with what this was all about: “a series of bomb explosions, lavatory homicide, police torture, kinky sex, a car chase, a search through canine feces and a disrupted church wedding ceremony.”

It is, however, the only movie that Joss Ackland and his daughter Melanie appeared in together. And hey — Zouzou is in it, a style icon, a friend of rock stars, a relentless nightclubber and the female Marlon Brando whose career was derailed by heroin.

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