The Chairman (1969)

Article 2515 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-22-2008
Posting Date: 7-1-2008
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Featuring Gregory Peck, Anne Heywood, Arthur Hill
Country: UK/USA

When Red China discovers an enzyme that can allow food to be grown in any area regardless of climate, the Americans, British and Russians combine forces to get the information. To that end, they hire a Nobel-winning scientist to infiltrate China and discover the enzyme. They plant a transmitter in his head so that he can keep in touch, but, unbeknownst to the scientist, the transmitter also contains a bomb that can be used if the scientist is caught.

The enzyme is the Gizmo Maguffin in this spy thriller, though the technology used to keep the scientist in touch with the military also pushes the movie into science fiction as well. It’s an interesting if uneven movie; the plot itself has its fair share of cliches, but the scenes inside China do give the viewer a strong sense that he has been transported to another culture, and this adds a lot to the atmosphere of the movie. The movie is well-directed and well-acted, with the oriental roles played by orientals, including Keye Luke and Burt Kwouk. The climax of the movie doesn’t quite achieve the pitch of edge-of-your-seat suspense that it aspires to, but I really like the scene where the scientist meets the Chairman and they discuss political viewpoints while playing ping-pong. I vaguely remember when this one was released to theaters, but I don’t recall it being a big success.



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