Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Salzburg Connection

A couple of months ago, I DVRed The Salzburg Connection. I made a point of watching it today since I knew it was going to be on TCM tomorrow, at 3:00 AM and 11:45 AM.

The airing I recorded had about a minute chopped off at the beginning as a result of starting before the box guide said it would; there was none of the usual FXM stuff or the Fox fanfare. The movie also ran about 91 minutes instead of the 93 IMDb claims. But I didn't miss much, and the story begins with an establishing bit before the opening credits. Mr. Bryant is doing some scuba diving in a lake someplace in Austria's Salzburg state (Salzburg is both a city, and one of Austria's federal states). He's found something on the bottom of this lake, and it's obviously come to other people's attention, as he's accosted on shore and killed.

Cut to the city of Salzburg. Bill Mathison (Barry Newman) is a lawyer for an American publishing house; he's on vacation in Europe but doing some business that should have been done by one of his colleagues. Apparently another lawyer sent a check to Mr. Bryant as an advance on a book about the lakes of the Salzburg region, and nothing has ever been delivered. Bill shows up at the photography store run by Bryant and his wife Anna (Anna Karina); she knows little about the book but you get the feeling she's not being fully honest. Indeed, her brother Johann (Klaus Maria Brandauer) takes a phone call from somebody talking about the box that Mr. Bryant found in that lake.

It seems, in fact, that a whole bunch of people are interested in that box. As Bill leaves the photography studio, he's followed by two men; a fourth man is watching all that go on. And then as part of his escape from the first two men, Bill runs into an American college student Elissa (Karen Jensen), whom we ultimately learn is involved in all of this as she makes a phone call and asks for Bill's hotel phone to be bugged! Eventually, when Bill talks to his boss back in New York, he's told that a "Chuck" (Joe Maross) is going to see him tomorrow morning. Chuck works for the CIA, and everybody else following him has been from one intelligence service or another.

The box is a bit of a macguffin; we're eventually told that it contains secret files of Nazis who escaped detection from the victorious Allies. (It must have been a very watertight box to survive a quarter century on the bottom of a lake.) In addition to the CIA, you've got Austrian intelligence in the form of Felix Zauner (Wolfgang Preiss); the Nazis; Bryant who was trying to get back in good with British intelligence; the Israelis; and even the Soviets and Chinese are referenced. Bodies, however, keep piling up in various ways.

Large parts of The Salzburg Connection are faintly ridiculous, as the whole story gets extremely muddled and tough to follow. There are some nice set pieces, such as Bill saving Anna from captors by getting the captors' car stuck in a traffic jam until the police show up; at that point Bill opens their car door revealing men with a gun on her. And there ought to be good scenery. A lot of the filming was done in Austria, and a good print would show this very well. But the print FXM Retro ran looks muddy. Either it's strongly in need of restoration, or they panned-and-scanned it down from 1.81:1 to 4:3 and then showed that print in 16:9. (The credits, however, rolled properly, and there didn't seem to be any noticeable break the way there is in most of FXM's panned-and-scanned movies. I don't know where the FXM logo is supposed to be when things are properly run, so I couldn't use that as comparison.)

Overall, The Salzburg Connection is a minor entry into the international intrigue genre of the 60s and 70s. It's worth one watch when FXM runs it, but I don't know that I'd ever pay for it on DVD.

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