Who's Got The Black Box?

Who's Got The Black Box?


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

It seems inconceivable that Claude Chabrol, the master of the bourgeois thriller, could have made something as silly as this. It looks like a comic book pastiche of an idea by Ian Fleming’s chauffeur, which underwhelms on style and has Jean Seberg performing the role of a designer-clad sex symbol, who is chased around the houses by boys with guns and an obese Blofeld figure whose idea of pleasure is tearing into roast pig with his bare hands.

This must have been the period when the Colonels ruled Greece, because the plot centres on “black boxes” that mess up radar systems. These boxes are being smuggled into the country by what you assume is an underground terrorist group, although you never quite get to grips with them, or why messing up radar is so important.

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A man called Sharps (Michel Bouquet), who may be the American ambassador, although he never speaks English, has a finger, or at least an agent, in every pie. Shanny Ford (Seberg) – the name alone gives you shivers – is recently widowed. Her late husband was a UN spy of sorts and she thinks she is implicated in his death and so has to prove to the world, or anyone who will listen, that she had nothing to do with it. An operative (CIA?) by the name of Dex (Maurice Ronet), who doesn’t speak English either, has the job of keeping an eye on her, which is all right for some, since she’s in a vulnerable state and, with her cropped peroxide hair and winning smile, deceptively seductive.

There is an assassin who wears a boater and grins like a catfish and is so camp he could attract a jamboree of wolf cubs by simply lounging across an ottoman. The only one with the credentials to take Shanny to the waterfall is Josio (Paolo Giusti), a naïve young truck driver with the brooding intensity of Montgomery Clift and the profile of Elvis Presley. Fate intervenes with a lead visiting card and the lady remains frustrated yet loyal to the memory of Mr Ford.

The film becomes a series of chases, murders and incomprehensible goings on. The jolly jinks would appear facile even in a student production, but this is the work of the man who made Les Cousins and Le Boucher, not a kid with a Super-8.

Seberg is used as eye candy and little else. The plot rushes from anti climax to coitus interruptus. It’s neither a spy story, nor a political thriller. It is a headless chicken – bloody, manic and about to die.

Reviewed on: 11 Oct 2007
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An action spy spoof in Greece, with Jean Seberg and men with bad haircuts. Out to own as part of .
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Director: Claude Chabrol

Writer: Daniel Boulanger, Claude Brulé, based on the novel by Claude Rank

Starring: Jean Seberg, Maurice Ronet, Christian Marquand, Michel Bouquet, Saro Urzì, Antonio Passalia, Paolo Giusti, Claude Chabrol, Vassilis Diamantopoulos, Steve Eckhardt, Romain Gary

Year: 1967

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy/France/Greece


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