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After 1919, Russian Boris Mitrov immigrates to the USA where he becomes an American citizen. Over the decades he builds a career in the film industry. In 1959, Mitrov is a movie producer with many rich influential friends. He continues to cultivate other Russian émigrés like himself and even some members of the Soviet Embassy in Washington. One of his Soviet friends is Embassy official Vladimir "Vadja" Kubelov. In reality, Kubelov is a KGB colonel who finds Mitrov useful to the Soviet cause by providing certain services. For instance, Mitrov provides reference letters of employment for various Soviet sleeper agents in the USA. Mitrov throws parties for Soviet diplomats, spies and American Communists such as millionaire bankers Adrian and Helen Benson. All these activities catch the attention of American intelligence agency CBI which places Mitrov and his entourage under close surveillance. When the CBI confronts Mitrov about his activities, he admits it but claims naivete. Eager to ...Written by
Borgnine on the lam in East Germany as a counter-spy...
These sort of espionage stories are not favorites of mine unless done with a storyline that is not too convoluted, as is sometimes the case in these kind of spy thrillers. But if they're taut and suspenseful throughout, I can forgive too many complications. Fortunately, the cat-and-mouse game played here is understandable enough and crackles with suspense and tension.
MAN ON A STRING is a spy thriller based on the true-life adventures of a real counter-spy Boris Morros (dubbed Boris Mitrov here), played by ERNEST BORGNINE. While the plotting is far from simple, it's easy enough to enjoy the air of menace and danger that permeates the entire story without getting bogged down into the details of entrapment that always accompany these spy stories.
It moves at a brisk pace under the direction of Andre deToth (for awhile, he was a husband of Veronica Lake in the '40s), and all of it is filmed on locations in East and West Germany. KERWIN MATTHEWS is Borgnine's fellow spy assigned to guide him through the various activities, COLLEEN DEWHURST does well in her second film after a couple of TV roles, and GLENN CORBETT is excellent as a government agent.
It's rather talky for the first hour and then builds to a tense climax among the deserted buildings of East Germany when Mitrov's activities become known to the Russians, which leads to a shootout scene that caps the ending in a satisfying and suspenseful way.
Borgnine gives a solid performance and the film itself is well worth watching.
There's a narration that gives it an almost documentary approach, somewhat like another film produced by Louis De Rochemont, THE HOUSE ON 92nd STREET.
Summing up: Crisp, exciting spy thriller.
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