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On July 25, 1973, Warner Bros.’ Paul Newman thriller The Mackintosh Man opened in New York at Loews theaters. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:
The Mackintosh Man, produced by John Foreman and directed by John Huston, is a good genre film in the ice cold vein of The Maltese Falcon. It isn’t nearly as rich nor fine as that early Huston classic but tells an interesting story with a sure sense of atmosphere, location and supporting characters.
Paul Newman plays an American who appears to be an international jewel thief betrayed by his employer Harry Andrews and his mysterious secretary (Dominique Sanda). He is arrested and sent to prison for 20 years; there, he arranges to buy an escape, which he shares with imprisoned English traitor Ian Bannen.
Walter Hill’s screenplay, based on the novel The Freedom Trap by Desmond Bagley, has an ingenious, unexpected but credible twist that sends the above plot sprawling. Unfortunately, the way the movie picks up the strands and weaves them back together is neither as interesting nor as artfully accomplished as the set-up.
Huston’s work is superbly modulated, downbeat, crystal clear and steady, alternating between moody silences and flashes of restrained but exciting action. The quiet, cool prison sequences are as good as anything Huston’s ever done. It’s too bad the director chooses to use such dreary action film cliches as a car chase, here well accomplished, but nonetheless predictable.
Hill’s spare, vivid dialogue is often hilarious; his minor characters are, as usual, extremely well-created. Although the movie has a strong sense of organization, the plot revelations in the last half come in obvious dialogue exchanges rather than from inventive dramatic situations.
Newman is fine as the hapless hero, a man who faces a moral dilemma at the film’s end and proves himself to be a good man. The Australian accent his character feigns is acceptable, and the actor projects a growing sense of moral fatigue.
The movie’s flaw is the characterization of Dominique Sanda, the crucial figure in the drama’s meaning. The actress, who has been one of the screen’s most hypnotic presences in films by De Sica, Bertolucci and Bresson, retains her strange, subtly corrupt beauty but has nothing to work with. The movie’s last scene, which is otherwise sensational, disappoints because Sanda’s action in it comes from left field.
James Mason is excellent as a reactionary member of parliament who proves to be the villain of the piece. Harry Andrews is fine as the man who may or may not be the mastermind behind an international ring of jewel thieves. Ian Bannen vividly enacts the dour traitor who is given freedom with Newman by Michael Hordern, the leader of the prison break-out gang.
Nigel Patrick stands out as a scholarly prisoner who proposes the escape to Newman. Jenny Runacre provides terrific comedy relief as a superficially nice but ultimately vicious nurse. Peter Vaughan makes an appropriately hatchet-faced police inspector.
Photographer Oswald Morris is a major contributor to the movie’s dark, elegant, sinister feeling. Film editor Russell Lloyd’s first 30 minutes of short scenes joined by slow dissolves is masterfully accomplished. Production designer Terry Marsh, working with art director Alan Tomkins and set dresser Peter James, gives the movie a consistently uneasy feeling of restrained nightmare.
The irritating, repetitive music by Maurice Jarre is not only all wrong for the film’s razor sharp sense of moral danger but almost destroys its rich textures with its soupy, cloying inanity. — Alan R. Howard, originally published on July 23, 1973.
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