The Internecine Project. The rhythm of syllables in the three word title lets us know that we’re in for: An espionage thriller from the golden age of such outings.
It’s the ingredients that make this one special. Starting with the cast headed by that Icon of Cool, James Coburn, portraying a cold-hearted economics professor and former spy, who is also a partner in a powerful international corporation and has been offered a position as a close advisor to the US President.
In order to take the job Coburn plans a domino-effect elimination of a group of four individuals with knowledge of his espionage past. They’ve all served him as agents in the paid supply of intelligence.
Michael Jayston plays a scientist who in return for funding has provided weaponised chemicals and technology, Harry Andrews as a big-eared masseur reporting loose-lipped conversations held in an exclusive spa, Ian Hendry as a senior civil servant passing on UK Government secrets and Christiane Krügeras a high-class prostitute who hands over recordings and films of her clients. Outside of his targets Coburn has a perfect ‘gorgeous-in-your-50s’ pairing with the stunning Lee Grant as American journalist and old flame who has watched his immoral ascent to power.
Almost a decade earlier James Coburn had two outings as spoofer-spy Derek Flint and his own iconic style and charisma inspired The Glimmer Girl’s St John Bradley. Michael Jayston would later add to his spy chops in the roles of both Peter Guillam in the TV adaption of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Adam Hall’s Quiller and as a narrator of John Le Carre audio books. Harry Andrews also appeared in, amongst many much more notable outings, the spy movies The Mackintosh Man with Paul Newman and Modesty Blaise. Ian Hendry had an earlier key role in alongside Michael Caine in Get Carter, which shared another key ingredient of this film: the music of Roy Budd. Intrinsic to the spy movie formula, Budd lets-off big time with the free jazz score of percussion and double bass solos to ratchet up the tension in key scenes, most notably a confrontation in a shower.
Next the setting- London,1974 in and around Mayfair, seen largely by moonlight. The nearest we get to gadgets that qualify The Internecine Project as spy-fi are the sonic assassination weapon that Jayston supplies and Coburn’s opulent office with a back-lit map of London hidden behind a glass art screen. All in all it makes M’s gaff look like a corner of cardboard city.
As it was in the era, everyone who walks through Coburn’s door is served a stiff drink and he puffs on a cigar as his intrinsically planned hits are carried out across one night, signified by coded rings of various length on his red telephone.
One final part of the formula ticks the box for me. Obscurity. I was unaware of The Internecine Project until I stumbled upon it on a You Tube Channel whilst researching something else. My only criticism would be some of the sound production is muffled, particularly some of Lee Grant’s lines to James Coburn. They share an exchange toward the end of the movie which has proven largely prescient regarding non-elected aides close to power.
So if those almost perfectly prepared ingredients wet your spy-fi appetite search out and enjoy The Internecine Project.