Saturday, April 25, 2015

Brief Thoughts - THE 'HUMAN' FACTOR (1975)

I caught up with this obscure thriller last night and was quite impressed with it. It is a well scripted, well acted, well paced revenge tale set in Italy with legendary character actor George Kennedy proving that he could anchor a film if given the right role. He plays American computer engineer John Kinsdale living with his family in Rome as he works on a NATO project involving nuclear war strategies. One evening he comes home to learn that his wife and children have been brutally murdered and the police have no idea who did it or why. After briefly contemplating suicide Kinsdale decides to use the networked NATO computer system to research what little is known about the crime scene to see if he can track down the killers.

I had no idea this movie would feature a very early version of online database research and I found it interesting that this infant form of the internet was portrayed the way it was. The scenes in which Kennedy and his co-worker played by John Mills painstakingly link up to offsite computers by phone to search records plays out like Google searches today as they gather raw information and try to make sense of it. It's a testament to the skills of the cast and crew that these potentially dry sequences are actually interesting as I watch them today. Of course, director Edward Dymtryk was an old Hollywood pro famous for films as varied as THE CAINE MUTINY (1954), MURDER MY SWEET (1944), CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1943) and THE YOUNG LIONS (1958) so he knew a thing or two about constructing a story for maximum success.

Sadly, this was Dymtryk's last film but I'm glad to say he went out making a film that showed him still a very capable craftsman and in control of his abilities. In a way THE 'HUMAN' FACTOR could be seen as the natural end to a career that included a jungle girl film, a Boston Blackie programmer, a Falcon mystery and an early Boris Karloff chiller. The guy nearly did it all! 

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