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S*P*Y*S

The idea of Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould being the 1970s version of Hope and Crosby is a great "what if…". Having worked together in Robert Altman's seminal M*A*S*H (1970), and appearing together in 1971's Little Murders, it was apparent the two had a great natural chemistry together. And so in 1974 they were reunited by Irvin Kershner for the rambling Euro-comedy S*P*Y*S. Both play CIA spooks, with Gould's Griff the more self-aware agent, while Sutherland as Brouland is a control freak. They're accidentally set up for assassination by a clerical error and figure they have to go "rogue" after screwing up a defection assignment. Thus, they hide out with Sybil (Zou Zou), who's an anarchist that Brouland once had an affair with and sold a bomb to (under orders). She's suspicious, but she ends up sleeping with both men. The only thing they can think to do is score some counterintelligence that would be worth selling, and so the two go across Europe in search of the clues that will net them some retirement money. Along the way they unintentionally partner with Sybil and her band of anarchists, which leads to a well-staged car chase. Irvin Kershner was known for his loose comedies, and he has a very light touch, but S*P*Y*S goes a bit broader, and that may be why it's a film that's never attracted much of a cult following. The picture is no more nor less than a chance to watch Gould and Sutherland bounce off each other, something they do in a very engaging way. Both play to their strengths, which means that Sutherland, at first, is a bit off-putting. It's intentional, but it's more amusing later on when the duo buddy up and work together on a level playing field. The plot is nonsense though, and there's a feeling at the end of the film of it being less than the sum of its parts. But the charm of seeing the duo walk out of the credits singing "Side by Side" allows us to forgive some of those weaknesses. Fox presents S*P*Y*S on DVD in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with the original monaural audio and a new stereo mix. Extras include "Inside S*P*Y*S," which features interviews with Irvin Kershner, Elliot Gould, and producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff (22 min.), and "The Road of a Hundred Days," which is a U.S. Government documentary directed by Kershner (32 min.). Theatrical trailer, stills gallery. Keep-case with paperboard slipcover.
—DSH



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