Monday, 13 May 2019

The Anderson Tapes - 1971 film review

Over the years, I've somehow managed to miss The Anderson Tapes, a 1971 film directed by the gifted Sidney Lumet, and based on a novel by Lawrence Sanders. It's a heist movie starring Sean Connery at the peak of his powers, and I've long been familiar with the excellent theme tune by Quincy Jones. Finally, I managed to catch up with it, thanks to the admirable Talking Pictures TV.

It's apparent that Lumet was trying to do something more than direct a straightforward film about a robbery. This is a story, in part, about covert surveillance, and it pre-dates The Conversation, which is my favourite movie about surveillance, a genuine masterpiece. At the start of the film, Connery is released from prison. He is an angry man, who immediately reunites with his girlfriend, Dyan Cannon, who is being maintained by another lover in a posh apartment block. Connery decides to rob her fellow residents.

The trouble is that this is a two-hour film with barely ninety minutes of material. Lumet's approach may have been cutting-edge in its day, but it seems to me to have dated, and this film is much less effective, in my opinion, than some of his other work. I am a Connery fan, but I never warmed to his character, and the heist seemed to me to be hopelessly protracted, and so obviously doomed to failure that tension faded.

Even Quincy Jones' soundtrack seems, to a modern ear, to be intrusive and occasionally a bit irksome, despite the quality of that theme. The ending is meant to be ironic, but I'm afraid that by that stage, I didn't really care too much. You'll have gathered that I was disappointed by this one. Maybe it's a case of having had expectations that were too high. But in my opinion, it's nothing like as good as The Conversation.


Bill Carlin said...

I agree, Martin. Not a great film but I did find it memorable for several reasons. First of all it makes me feel terribly old when I see Christopher Walken playing the "kid" in this movie. He was a standout among an impressive cast. The wonderful Martin Balsam is almost always flawless in any role he plays but his turn here as a gay antiques dealer is cringeworthy by today's standards.
New York, as always looks amazing, and when I was there last Autumn walking along "Museum Mile" it was this film that came to mind.
I went on to read the novel as a result of the film. I think it was the first time I ever encountered an epistolary novel (and learned the word "epistolary"). One of the "walk-on" characters (in both the book and film) was Edward X. ("Iron Balls") Delaney who became the star of several "Deadly Sin" novels written as a series by the late Lawrence Sanders. I loved the novels but was very disappointed in the film adaptation of "The First Deadly Sin" with Frank Sinatra as Delaney. I must watch out for re-showings of "The Anderson Tapes" to see how much my opinion has changed since first seeing it as a sixteen year old schoolboy.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Bill. I didn't know it was an epistolary novel. That's a form I really like, so I must keep an eye out for it, despite my reservations about the movie