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Encyclopedia > The Kremlin Letter

The Kremlin Letter is a 1970 film, released by 20th Century-Fox. Directed by John Huston from a script that Huston co-wrote with Gladys Hill (adapted from the novel by Noel Behn), the film is a complex tale of intrigue and espionage set in the days of the US-Soviet Cold War. The cast includes Patrick O'Neal, Richard Boone, Bibi Andersson, Max Von Sydow, Barbara Parkins, Orson Welles, George Sanders, Lila Kedrova, Nigel Green, Raf Vallone, Dean Jagger, Micheal MacLiammoir, Ronald Radd, Sandor Eles, Marc Lawrence, Niall MacGinnis. O'Neal plays a naval man drafted into the secret service because he is a linguist who is able to speak fluent Russian. He is given the task of retrieving the eponymous letter. Helping him is a motley team of undercover (and underworld) sorts, including Richard Boone as O'Neal's superior, charming and menacing both at the same time, George Sanders as a drag artist, and a beautiful safecracker (who opens safes with her feet while lying on her back), played by Barbara Parkins, with whom O'Neal falls in love. The characterizations and the acting are first-rate. Huston, who also plays a small role, directs with a deceptive touch of non-chalance that seems to imply wariness and uninvolvement but in fact, the film is a highly absorbing tale that sustains interest from beginning to end. One of its admirers was the French master of film noir Jean-Pierre Melville. An interesting technique used in the film to surmount the problem of having Russian characters speak in their own language while translating their dialogue into English without the use of English subtitles was to have the characters start speaking in Russian and gradually segueing into English. Such a practice has been little used since.


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