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No synopsis for Innocent Bystanders.
For more about Innocent Bystanders and the Innocent Bystanders Blu-ray release, see Innocent Bystanders Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on February 20, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Stanley Baker, Geraldine Chaplin, Donald Pleasence, Dana Andrews, Sue Lloyd, Derren Nesbitt
Director: Peter Collinson
» See full cast & crew
Innocent Bystanders Blu-ray Review
Craig. John Craig.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, February 20, 2013
The James Bond craze was pretty much in remission in the early seventies, with Sean Connery's on-again, off-again departure as 007 leading to the perceived misfire of George Lazenby starring in On Her Majesty's Secret Service followed by Connery's last Broccoli-Salzman production, Diamonds Are Forever, before Roger Moore took over the role for what quickly became a sillier franchise. The 007 craze led to a huge glut of knock off properties throughout the sixties (and let's face it, Connery himself might be accused of a knock off with his return as Bond in 1983's Never Say Never Again), but things had quieted down rather dramatically by decade's end. Sandwiched in between Lazenby's sole appearance as Bond and Connery's last "real" Bond film was the rather odd 1972 British spy thriller Innocent Bystanders, an overtly flashy entry in quasi-Bond mania that is almost like a mash up of more serious minded Bond derivative fare like The Ipcress File (not so coincidentally co-produced by Harry Salzman) or even The Spy Who Came In From the Cold and the unabashedly cheeky and frivolous television series The Avengers. If Innocent Bystanders was made with one eye on the Bond franchise, it was probably a miscast gaze, for tonally this film is neither as fun nor as exciting as any given Bond feature. It's most salient characteristic may well be how arbitrary it often is, with alliances shifting virtually on a dime and with a veritable plethora of secrets that various characters are hiding. Almost manically edited at times, the film also has a rather disturbing amount of violence, a string of bloody killings, beatings and even sexual improprieties that almost suggest the influence of someone like Sam Peckinpah lurking somewhere in the background. The film was actually directed by Peter Collinson, who helmed the original version of The Italian Job.
There is at least one salient connection to James Bond here, at least insofar as the iconic character was portrayed in the latest Bond outing Skyfall. In that film Bond was portrayed as an agent perhaps (maybe not even perhaps) past his prime, fighting to retain his cachet in an organization that was filled with upstart youths. Much the same situation is at hand in Innocent Bystanders. The main character here is John Craig (Stanley Baker), a high level operative for a shadowy British intelligence agency (none of the international spy organizations in the film bear names that resemble reality, like MI6 or the CIA, as they often do in the Bond films). Craig has had a rough go of it, evidently having been tortured by the KGB, with the result being that his sexual prowess has been severely compromised (this is alluded to rather obliquely but is made fairly clear nonetheless). Craig is surrounded by a number of younger agents, including the unlikely pair of Benson (Sue Lloyd) and Royce (Derren Nesbitt), a duo of karate chopping comic foils who are (at times at least) more than a bit reminiscent of John Steed and Emma Peel in The Avengers.
Craig has been consigned to "pencil pushing" at the agency since his misfortune, but he's offered a chance to get "back in the saddle" by his taciturn (in fact almost zombie-like) superior Loomis (Donald Pleasance). The opening credits sequence of the film has already shown us a daring prison break from a Soviet Gulag, and one of the escaped prisoners, an agronomist named Aaron Kaplan (Vladek Sheybal) is wanted by the Russians, British and the Americans (the actual reason is never fully explained, but it seems like Kaplan has some sort of genius in being able to convert deserts into lush oases). Loomis informs Craig that he is to find and capture Kaplan, and that Royce and Benson will be tagging along as "decoys" for the KGB. (What actually turns out to be the case is something not so unexpectedly completely different.)
Craig is briefly captured by the Americans, including a kind of smarmy section head named Blake (Dana Andrews), in one of the more disturbing if oddly kind of funny scenes in the film. The Americans lead Craig to believe he's about to be tortured the same way the KGB agents did previously, and despite the fact that there is in fact no torture, Craig reacts as if there were. He is then injected with a truth serum and spills the beans about his mission to find Kaplan. The Americans decide that Craig is washed up as an agent, and no threat to their mission to find Kaplan.
Craig manages to track down Kaplan's brother and to actually prevent a KGB hit squad from executing the man, but he receives very little gratitude in return, and next to no information about Aaron's whereabouts. When Loomis insists that Craig get Kaplan come hell or high water, Craig, who has already felt Loomis has betrayed him, decides to take matters into his own hands. He returns to Kaplan's brother's tony apartment and discovers a comely young woman there named Miriam Loman (Geraldine Chaplin), who states that she is the ward of Kaplan's brother. Craig simply takes Miriam hostage and then tracks down Kaplan's brother, informing him that Miriam will be summarily executed by Craig if Aaron's whereabouts are not divulged.
Enough information is forthcoming (as much from Miriam as from Kaplan's brother) to get Craig and Miriam off to Turkey, where Aaron can hopefully be found. What ensues is a not very surprising quasi-romance that develops between Craig and Miriam (talk about your Stockholm Syndrome, even if it is in Turkey), as the two attempt to track down Aaron while at the same steering clear of just about everyone else in the film, including the Americans, Russians and the two supposed British underlings. The film kind of lurches uneasily between at times pretty lamely staged action elements and the more supposedly intimate moments between the burgeoning lovers.
The film is perched rather precariously between a more or less straight ahead espionage feel, a kind of nasty smarminess (especially when Royce goes after Miriam at one point) and some oddly placed comedic elements. In fact the film's best moment is actually a very funny interchange between Benson and a clueless policeman after Craig has taken out his two protégés so that he can continue his own private mission. But the really strange thing about this is how almost inappropriate the humor feels when placed within the overall context of the film.
Innocent Bystanders does have one other minor way it is intentionally reminiscent of the Bond franchise, namely Johnny Keating's brass heavy score (replete with the "smears" that frequently mark John Barry's scores to various Bond features). There's a certain disco- fied element to some of the cues which is distinctly at odds with the Bond outings, as well as a perhaps ill conceived song by Hurricane Smith, but some of the action cues sound like they could have been lifted whole cloth from some little known Bond film from the mid- to late sixties.
Innocent Bystanders Blu-ray, Video Quality
Innocent Bystanders is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. The elements here are in generally decent shape, though this particular feature does have a few more outright blemishes and mars than some other Olive catalog releases. These tend to be more in form of specks and flecks rather than scratches and the like, but some of them are noticeable enough to actually take out significant portions of the frame, even if they're limited to fractions of a second each. Other than that, the transfer exhibits an overall softness which may in fact simply reproduce what was probably a pretty low budget affair to begin with (it should come as no surprise that I never saw Innocent Bystanders theatrically). Colors are acceptable if not especially robust, though flesh tones once again tip toward the pink side of things, perhaps indication of a slight but noticeable fading. Fine detail really pops quite well in extreme close-ups (see the first two screenshots for good examples), but is noticeably less fulsome in midrange and wide shots. Grain is still completely in evidence and as with most Olive releases, there doesn't appear to have been much if any digital tweaking at all.
Innocent Bystanders Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Innocent Bystanders' lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track does quite well in reproducing the dialogue, score and effects with reasonably aggressive, though obviously very narrow, results. The mix tends to be a bit busy at times, especially with some uneven mixing (which I'm sure was endemic to the stems themselves), especially noticeable in a couple of Keating's cues which are mixed much too loudly with regard to dialogue. That said, little if any dialogue is ever completely obscured and overall this track is presented well enough to satisfy the limited sonic ambitions of this film.
Innocent Bystanders Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are offered on this Blu-ray disc.
Innocent Bystanders Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
In a kind of funny typo, whoever authored this disc for Olive Films labeled the thumbnail Innocent Bystander (as in singular), which may lead some viewers to conclude that they are the focus of what is often a pretty disheveled, uneven entertainment. Innocent Bystanders works in dribs and drabs, but it's far too serious for its own good, especially when that sober quality is thrust up against some of the cheekier comedy provided by the British underling duo. If you want to watch a film about a washed up secret agent trying to recapture the glory days of yore, the better choice would obviously be Skyfall.
Innocent Bystanders Blu-ray, News and Updates
• More Catalog Titles Coming Up From Olive Films - December 3, 2012
Olive Films have revealed that they are planning to release six more catalog titles in February: Night of the Demons 2 (1994), The Monster Squad (1987), Live Nude Girls (1995), Highlander 2: Renegade Version (1991), Julius Caesar (1970), and Innocent Bystanders ...
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