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Written by / 7/06/2016 / No comments / , , , , , , , , , ,

FINAL CINEMA TURN FOR MONTGOMERY CLIFT IN 'THE DEFECTOR'

Montgomery Clift smoking in THE DEFECTOR Year: 1967
By the Sixties, the Cold War genre, which began in the Forties, was in full swing, sometimes with bullets flying, and usually taking place in Europe...

Yet THE DEFECTOR is extremely low-key, low budget, very subtle, taking its time and may require several viewings to pick up every nuance..

And for the sake of cinematic history, there is an importance in this otherwise forgotten vehicle, mostly known as the legendary Montgomery Clift's final role, which isn't a surprise when you see that, very sadly and extremely noticable, he resembles a man very near death and ironically, less than a decade prior, he was equal with (and was around before) James Dean and Marlon Brando, and this was his first step back in action...

 Hardy Kruger as Peter Heinzmann
And he does a good enough job despite the fact it seems as if his character, Professor James Bower, in East Germany to visit a Russian friend for whom he translated several novels, hadn't eaten or slept in a very long while. Perhaps it should have been written into the script; his character riddled by some mysterious illness might have actually worked in this already strange and tight, extremely contained, atmospheric movie where prison-like surroundings of dull brown buildings exist in a locale that's cold and desolate...

He could have been equally as hopeless and desperate, especially since he may have to stick around permanently. But his pallid and gaunt, sickly appearance isn't mentioned yet should have been because, whether he was handsome in previous films or not, it's not only tragic but downright distracting...

Macha Méril as Frieda Hoffmann
Especially in the extremely contrived and awkward romantic angle involving several encounters, and a solid port in the impending storm with the young and gorgeous German actress Macha Méril, her shared "commune" apartment the only comfortably safe harbor around (she even has a comic book of Smurfs, and it's political!).

Roddy McDowall with Monty Clift
Their love scenes are somewhat contrived and awkward, and that's not because of Clift's homosexuality – straight actors with more talent than Rock Hudson couldn't match the eyeful of genuine lust when first seeing Liz Taylor in GIANT.

And, speaking of Taylor, she was close friends with Montgomery Clift, and his only reason for taking part in such a parenthetical, otherwise throwaway effort was to get himself back in swing i.e. a warmup session for his intended comeback opposite the aging brunette in REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE, a role involving a closeted homosexual military lifer that was given to Marlon Brando (lusting after Robert Forster), and one that perhaps could have helped bring the repressed, tortured soul "out" in an artistic way, or at least created a path in that direction (being one of Brando's few miscasted roles, Clift would have been a much better fit)...

Warner Archives Artwork
But as cinema history goes, dictated by irreversible twists of fate, it never happened. And if any movie had a built-in curse attached, it's this one...

Montgomery Clift as Professor Bower
Both the director, Raoul Lévy, and leading man died before the theatrical release, and while critics had some positive things to say it failed to even dent the box office or stand the test of time...

Not a shock given that the spy genre had turned into a jovial carnival ride with the James Bond franchise, and the fact much of the story plays out in long scenes of important dialogue rather than non-stop action. Yet the Thriller genre (in any film) does tend to move (or not move) in this fashion, tickling the brain over driving testosterone and in that, THE DEFECTOR is a success though beyond subtle and ambiguous in its page-turning approach as the plot and/or purpose is handled right up front: so the mystery relies on how and when things will pan out, and in what direction.

Montgomery Clift proves he's got nothing to lose
Interior scenes mostly involving intentionally stuffy offices used for "polite" interrogations occur between the characters in a steady course, and of all the cast, including Roddy McDowell... as a CIA man spouting all the exposition for his reluctant inside man... is German actor Hardy Krüger as Counselor Peter Heinzmann, given an almost impossible task of trying to persuade the American scientist to defect after the Russian he had traveled to see in East Germany was killed (unseen), and who had this genre's most coveted McGuffin – microfilm...

Defector Score: ****
So Krüger provides the only real conflict, making him the actor to watch for his expressions and reactions alone; that is, if you don't count Clift having to survive a slowburn nightmare of being stuck in this purgatory, softly batted about as a pawn (although he's hard to really feel sorry for since he hooks up so easily with the moon-faced German beauty)...

In a sparse study of existential anti-espionage, one particular psychedellic scene (much like Dick Powell's trip in MURDER MY SWEET) stands out as Bower half-sleep hallucinates inside his barred-widowed hotel room; suddenly the bed winds up outside, in the midst of construction on a daylight street, giving this pointed, grounded vehicle a bit of "foreign film surrealism."

But the entire DEFECTOR is, in a literal sense despite the Germans speaking perfect English, a Foreign Film without subtitles while maintaining an even-keel through strategic wordplay over gunplay, and a palpable sense of doom without a single bomb ticking. Winding up with 11th hour action that, though quite rushed and begging for the film to close, is more like suspenseful-movement as our subtle if bland yet determined and intriguing hero tries to get out of the country, the hard way: on foot, and all alone.
Montgomery Clift marching on to car in THE DEFECTOR with Valentina Tereshkova on sign's right side
Montgomery Clift in THE DEFECTOR
Montgomery Clift in THE DEFECTOR the Zoo Scene
Montgomery Clift in THE DEFECTOR the Zoo Scene
Montgomery Clift in THE DEFECTOR with Elephants in the Zoo
Montgomery Clift in THE DEFECTOR with Roddy McDowall
Montgomery Clift in THE DEFECTOR
Hardy Kruger in THE DEFECTOR
Montgomery Clift in THE DEFECTOR with Macha Méril
THE DEFECTOR with Hardy Kruger and Montgomery Clift
THE DEFECTOR with Hardy Kruger and Montgomery Clift
THE DEFECTOR with Macha Méril
THE DEFECTOR with Macha Méril
THE DEFECTOR with Macha Méril and  Montgomery Clift
THE DEFECTOR with Christine Delaroche
THE DEFECTOR with Montgomery Clift
THE DEFECTOR with Uta Levka
THE DEFECTOR with Christine Delaroche and Mache Meril
THE DEFECTOR with Christine Delaroche and Mache Meril
THE DEFECTOR with Christine Delaroche
THE DEFECTOR with Christine Delaroche and Montgomery Clift
"And now you and I... become interesting." Hardy Kruger and Montgomery Clift, The Defector
Montgomery Clift in a scene that looks like The Deer Hunter but is a mellow thriller titled THE DEFECTOR
The film's two German beauties in one shot: our co-lead Macha Meril with Christine Delaroche
Macha Méril and Peter Falk on The Naked City: A Most Cautious Man
Montgomery Clift and Macha Méril in THE DEFECTOR
Montgomery Clift in The Defector set in Communist Germany
Montgomery Clift in The Defector set in Communist Germany
Montgomery Clint in the hallucination scene in THE DEFECTOR
Montgomery Clint in the hallucination scene in THE DEFECTOR
Montgomery Clift as Professor James Bower in Na Fronteira do Medo aka The Defector
Montgomery Clift as Professor James Bower in Na Fronteira do Medo aka The Defector
Montgomery Clift as Professor James Bower in Na Fronteira do Medo aka The Defector
Montgomery Clift as Professor James Bower in Na Fronteira do Medo aka The Defector
Montgomery Clift looks into a strange mirror in the strange spy flick THE DEFECTOR
Montgomery Clift and Macha Méril in THE DEFECTOR
Montgomery Clift in THE DEFECTOR with Macha Méril
German actor Karl Lieffen in THE DEFECTOR with Macha Méril
Montgomery Clift faces Hardy Kruger in THE DEFECTOR
Montgomery Clift in the bicycle escape scene for THE DEFECTOR
Roddy McDowall and Montgomery Clift in THE DEFECTOR
Roddy McDowall and Montgomery Clift in THE DEFECTOR
Christine Delaroche in The Defector
Montgomery Clift reading The Smurfs in THE DEFECTOR aka Lautlose Waffen
Top: "I vote for myself" Bottom Left: "I do not like the months!" The Smurfs in The Defector
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