Hollywood legend and Academy Award winner James Coburn stars as Prof. Robert Elliot, a former secret agent given the job opportunity of a lifetime: adviser to the President of the United States. However, he has some skeletons in his closet that need eliminating, namely the four people aware of his shady past. Elliot hatches a diabolical plot to get rid of his targets in one night, with no ties leading back to him... The Internecine Project is a nerve shattering thriller that will grip you in suspense until the unpredictable surprise ending! Cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth (Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Bob Fosse's Cabaret).
I love a good potboiler. Movies where a character or a group of characters find themselves in tough situations that inevitably end in dramatic murder are a great source of thrills and chills. I like seeing the master of the group, the architect of a grand scheme whisper into the ears of each person and propel them to do something they would normally never do, like the devil promising Faust a better life in exchange for his soul. For 1974's 'The Internecine Project' director Ken Hughes crafts a taut espionage thriller where a secret agent must creatively dispatch all of his associates in a single night.
Robert Elliot (James Coburn) is a man of the world. As a distinguished American economist living in London, he's sought after for interviews, speaking engagements, and even as an advisor to the President of the United States. But he wasn't always this person. As the world knows Elliot as a learned economist with some radical ideas, only a few people know the true man, the ruthless, murderous secret agent. Just as Elliot is about to take a post serving directly under the President, his handler Farnsworth (Keenan Wynn) informs him it's time to clean the closet and remove the skeletons. With a former girlfriend turned investigative reporter (Lee Grant) nipping at his heels, Elliot has one night to clean house. Since none of his compatriots know who each other are, Elliot's grand scheme is to persuade them to murder each other. Even the best laid plans are bound to have a few glitches, and any glitch could spell disaster for Elliot.
Scripted by Barry Levinson and Jonathan Lynn, 'The Internecine Project' has all the trappings of a classic Agatha Christie style "Who Done It?" murder mystery - except we know who all of the murderers are. The thrills and chills and suspense come from seeing these people manipulated into doing the will of another man. As Coburn's cold as ice Elliot worms his way around, we watch as the dominoes fall one by one. It's a strange place to rest as an audience because you're being asked to root for the murderer to more or less succeed. At the same time, you want to know when and where the plan will hit a snag or two - and whether or not one of these people will gain the upper hand on Elliot.
Without giving away any spoilers, 'The Internecine Project' is a fun little thrill ride right through the end. Even when you think our man Coburn is free and clear, one little extra unexpected wrinkle crops up in his intricate plan. At a lean 89 minutes, Director Ken Hughes keeps the action moving without shortchanging the characters or over stuffing the goose. This potboiler is cooked just right and is never boring nor does it overstay its welcome. While it moves along at a great clip and things are set up relatively well, I would have liked some more backstory on Elliot. Him being a world-renowned economist is an interesting cover for a secret agent, but I would have liked to know more of what the man did for God and Country. I think that little bit of information, something that Lee Grant's Jean Robertson character could have learned from one of these people, would have gone a long way towards raising the stakes.
As it rests, 'The Internecine Project' is a solid little espionage thriller with an incredible cast, a smart script, and impressive tight direction. It may not hold up under much scrutiny, however, those willing to roll with the plot as it's presented without asking too many questions will enjoy the ride. On top of that, you have a great reason to watch Coburn do what he did best. The man knew how to play cool while also being able to play evil incarnate with a wink and a big toothy smile. If you haven't run across 'The Internecine Project' before, you should have a great time with it.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino Lorber brings 'The Internecine Project' to Blu-ray through their Studio Classics label and is pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc. The disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case and loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
'The Internecine Project' arrives with a pleasing-yet-flawed 1080p 1.78:1 transfer. Film grain is present throughout and provides some strong detail levels in close up and middle range shots. However, wide shots are particularly hazy and soft looking losing a lot of the robust detail levels we could have seen in an adjoining shot. Colors are strong throughout, primaries a have a vivid presence while flesh tones look healthy and accurate. Black levels aren't always as deep black and crisp as they could be, they can appear a bit on the muddy brown side in some sequences, but the image retains a nice sense of three-dimensional depth to it. The print sourced for this transfer is in fair-to-good shape, some speckling and some mild scratches are apparent and there is some noticeable judder here and there - but nothing that I would call a deal breaker. All around this is a fine presentation.
'The Internecine Project' comes with what could be described as a thick and heavy English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track. Dialogue is front and center and is never difficult to hear, but at times it can be a bit shrill in certain places. Scoring by composer Roy Budd is even if a bit overwhelming at times during some climatic moments. Sound effects also tend to have a rather canned, overly-heavy quality to them that can sound a bit lifeless in places. Some mild hiss can be heard here and there, but the track is free of any pops or breaks. Levels are okay, although you may want to set them lower than you would for your average viewing experience for the reasons mentioned above. That said, once you have things set comfortably, there's no need to ride your volume button. All around this is an effective audio mix, but it's hardly demo-worthy for a classic release.
Interview with Screenwriter Jonathan Lynn: (SD 18:47) Screenwriter Lynn offers up a pretty terrific interview detailing the production, adapting the novel, and balancing the intricate plot details of the film. There is a warning at the beginning suggesting people not watch the interview until they see the film as there are numerous spoilers - which there are!
'Theatrical Trailer: (SD 3:00)
'The Naked Face' Trailer: (HD 2:10)
'Loophole' Trailer: (HD 1:26)
'Harry In Your Pocket' Trailer: (HD 1:59)
While being far from a perfect espionage thriller, 'The Internecine Project' manages to deliver an entertaining time built on an intriguing premise. It's always great to see Coburn do his thing, and as the signature baddie of the film, he's in prime form. Kino Lorber has done a nice job bringing this film to Blu-ray with a decent A/V presentation as well as a great interview with writer Jonathan Lynn. At the end of the day, I'm calling this one as worth a look. I can see most folks out there enjoying themselves with a bucket full of popcorn.