Sinatra:The Naked Runner

Naked Runner Poster

The Naked Runner: A Sinatra Enterprises Production for Warner Brothers © 1967
Produced by Brad Dexter   104 minutes

Director: Sidney J Furie
Screenplay: Stanley Mann  based on the novel by Francis Clifford
Music: Harry Sukman   Orchestrations: Herbert Spencer
Director of Photography: Otto Heller    Filmed in Technicolor  Techniscope
Film Editor: Barry Vince
Art Director: Peter Proud


Naked Runner
Main Cast:
Sam Laker Frank Sinatra
Martin Slattery Peter Vaughan
Colonel Hartmann Derren Nesbit
Karen Gisevius Nadia Gray
Anna Inger Stratton 
Ruth Toby Robbins
Ritchie Jackson Edward Fox
Cabinet Minister Cyril Luckham
Patrick Laker Michael Newport


Plotline Summary:

Sam Laker, an American businessman (in furniture design!), resident in London and a widower, with a 14 year old son Patrick, is contacted by an old British wartime colleague Martin Slattery. Slattery is now part of British secret intelligence. Another British agent is about to 'defect' and pass on critical information, so Slattery requests that Laker (an expert marksman during the war), with business cover, and about to visit the Leipzig fair with his son, assassinate this 'rogue agent'. Laker refuses, but does agree to deliver a letter to the defecting agent as aid to an underground worker - Karen -who had helped him in WWII. However once in Leipzig, upon return to his hotel after delivery of the letter, Laker finds his son has been abducted. He now has a desperate decision to make .....
Personal Review:
Although not comparable to the best of Sinatra's movie career e.g. 'The Manchurian Candidate', the picture nevertheless has much of interest and perhaps deserves a 'better press' than was generally proclaimed at its time of release. The plot is convoluted not to say wildly improbable, yet much in the style of the cold war thrillers of its time. Directed by the Canadian Sidney J Furie, hired due to his helming of 'The Ipcress File' a couple of years previously, 'The Naked Runner' is much more in this style - and that of the other 'Harry Palmer' films and others e.g. 'The Quiller Memorandum' than the colourful high jinks of spy movies like 'Our Man Flint'. Sinatra gives a fitting understated performance - his nervousness and concern is in his eyes- rather than overplaying the melodrama. A value of the story is that he is hardly 'in control' throughout, but driven and manipulated by the narrative. This gives the feel of Sinatra being cast as the film's character rather than being a 'star vehicle'.

Amongst the British supporting cast - which in itself sets the film apart from other Sinatra movies - Peter Vaughan projects an 'air of menace' without becoming 'cartoon baddy' and Derren Nesbit proves once again his skill at almost sadistic villainy. In the light of the present the 'fussy' camera angles have dated, yet there are particularly some classic set pieces including Sinatra stepping from the shadows in the tunnel towards the film's conclusion.

Of the major Sinatra British projects, the charity concerts are almost universally acclaimed; the '... Sings Great Songs From GB' album has criticism of the strain in Sinatra's voice following the long tour but much credit in the Farnon arrangements; however the 'Naked Runner' has garnered the least enthusiastic reviews. There is much (in my opinion) still to value in the film. All in all perhaps it is time for a re-evaluation of 'The Naked Runner'

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