Saturday, 12 February 2011

Fugitive In From The Cold ...

Covert Action
aka Sono stato un agente C.I.A.
(1978 / Italy / Greece)

‘‘Stick to fiction, you’ll live longer’’

An expose tape implicating the C.I.A in world military take over’s is in the possession of one of the C.I.A’s very own, and the organisation want it, and him eradicated !.

Former C.I.A operative Lester Horton (David Janssen) is in Athens, Greece holidaying. His presence, and photography sessions, in and around the city are a cause for concern from the stationed C.I.A Chief Maxwell (Arthur Kennedy). Maxwell and Horton have a history, and the former would rather that the retired C.I.A agent were literally, no longer around !.

Government agent man John Benson has been murdered, but announced as having gone missing. He is the man responsible for the tape, implicating the C.I.A from high. Lester Horton is now a journalist and novelist, penning many a chapter and verse causing ripples. He is in fact in Greece to investigate the disappearance of Benson and uncover more about the tape. Maxwell suspects the same, and has his men tail him.

One lead has Horton cautiously approaching a man in a cinema, during the screening of a movie, but before he can ascertain any solid information the man is shot in the back from someone sitting a few rows behind. Horton’s brief interaction with the man leads him to a former friend during his active time in the C.I.A, Joe Florio (Maurizio Merli). Their friendship was tested when Florio’s wife Anne (Corinne Clery), and Horton became attracted to each other in the past.

Joe Florio is an operative on the edge of his usefulness with the C.I.A. He has been informed that he will be transferred back to America, but in reality the wheels are in motion for him to have a planned accident !. He has become an embarrassment to the agency, due to his dependency on heroin. Chief Maxwell has ordered that he be eliminated, as he is not good for the company reputation !.

Lester Horton wants to help his former friend, but both he and Florio together stir up too much heat for Maxwell, and both are overtly targeted. A fantastic car chase in Rhodes has Florio believing more in Horton, and news of the tape is shared with his former friend. Their mutual respect for each other ends in tragedy as the two are cornered in one of the cities historical outdoor amphitheatres. Chief Maxwell’s right hand problem solver known as The Silent, due to his inability to talk, administers a lethal overdose of heroin to Florio, as Horton is restrained and forced to watch. Ivan Rassimov plays the role of, The Silent with an icy calmness that is effectively chilling. His performance as the bad guy extension of Chief Maxwell is very well realised, and the inevitable cumulative run in with Lester Horton is an emotive one.

Chief Maxwell sanctions Horton to the insane asylum in his desire to get him to divulge information pertaining to the tape. Horton refuses to cooperate and is subjected to all of the indignities of the environment he has been placed in custody to, along with some horrendous applications by the doctors believing him to be of unstable mind. When Horton tries to escape from the institution he is subjected to electro shock treatment, which is actually difficult to watch !.

Anne Florio uses her charm and respected position to call in a favour from the local police inspector, played quite perfectly by Philippe Leroy. He is an honourable and incorruptible officer of the law and facilitates the release of Horton from the institution. He reunites with Anne, and together they hold up in her secluded second home. It affords Horton some time to recuperate, but both know that it is only a matter of time before Maxwell uncovers them.

For a late entry in the Euro crime stakes Covert Action is a very accomplished piece of work from Director Romolo Guerrieri. A stellar cast, all delivering strong performances, adds to the enjoy ability of the film. Maurizio Merli gets to portray a more vulnerable side to his acting skills, and David Janssen is perfectly cast as a man with a past he is fighting to disassociate himself from. Arthur Kennedy delivers a demonstrative characterisation of self assured unpleasantness, and Ivan Rassimov emits an aura of stoic menace throughout.

A well paced slice of Seventies Euro espionage and crime. One that does not play to the Hollywood stereotype of good versus evil, but displays the shades of grey in between. Not everyone gets all that is coming to them, delivering instead a rather sombre conclusion, but at the same time a suitably realistic one.

Movie Rating: 7/10

Review by Paul Cooke / Source Japanese NTSC VHS

Covert Action (1978)

Director Romolo Guerrieri
With David Janssen, Corrine Clery, Maurizio Merli,
Arthur Kennedy, Philippe Leroy & Ivan Rassimov


  1. cheers look like a winner old school movies still by far are my favorite thanks for sharing cheers

  2. Hi Eric. No problem at all. This is definitely 'Old School' Cool & Highly enjoyable. I am a Big Fan of Maurizio Merli's movies. He really is the support actor here though & David Janssen is the star of the piece. Good role for him & the Euro crime style works very well here. Nice locations & a steadily paced movie that pays off.