305) The Great Spy Chase (1964) Dir: Georges Lautner Date Released: May XX, 1966 Date Seen: September 25, 2012 Rating: 3.5/5
This screened at Cannes this year but I didn't get to see it in May. In my limited experience at that festival, I find it's impossible to see all of the neat-looking Cannes Classics titles that I might like to as they usually overlap with first or second screenings of competition films, or first screenings of new films showing in side-bar competitions. So I was glad that I had a chance to catch up with this goofy, Ex-lax-loose spy spoof that has precious little to do with spy movies. In that sense, I don't think a Blake Edwards comparison is inexact.
I love the Pink Panther movies, and laugh long and hard at some of the weaker ones. But those comedies obviously don't have much to do with spy thrillers. They're scattershot farces, pastiches that throw together everything from The Green Hornet to Agatha Christie. Same thing is true of The Great Spy Chase, a dopey, but sometimes very funny Lino Ventura vehicle. It's overlong, has a great supporting cast, and the better slapstick gags are usually the funniest jokes in the movie....just like a lot of Blake Edwards's movies. Also, Ventura's great here. He's not given much to work with, but his implacable let's-just-get-this-over-with glare is hilarious, as is any scene where Ventura puts his muscleman physique to good use and barrels through walls, rooms full of the worst ninjas in the world (ugh, these guys are so bad, like Enter the Ninja bad), and oh yeah, murderous double agents. It's not high art, but it's fun.