DEAD HEAT ON A MERRY-GO-ROUND. Columbia, 1966. James Coburn, Camilla Sparv, Robert Webber, Aldo Ray, Nina Wayne, Rose Marie, with Harrison Ford (uncredited). Screenwriter-director: Bernard Girard.


   After watching several movies recently in black-and-white, it was quite a pleasure to see one in color, especially one in which the choice of colors used was so expertly done, along with a wide variety of clever camera shots and angles.

   I’ll go out on a limb here, and say that a sizable chunk of the credit goes to cinematographer Lionel Lindon, who received an Oscar for Around the World in Eighty Days and was nominated two other times. Not a shabby resume.

   Other than the camera work, though, I really have to apologize that I can find little else in this movie that’s worthy of a recommendation to you. It’s a bank caper story, one that takes place at the same time a Russian bigwig is landing at the L.A. airport, using up all of the LAPD’s manpower, but the story makes very use of that, nor any of the other plot devices I kept making up in my head as I was watching along.

   The story’s disjointed, there’s no characterization — save (in a way) for the criminal mastermind himself, Eli Kotch, played by James Coburn, and I’ll return to him in a minute — and believe it or not, there’s no suspense, not a single iota of excitement. Not once, not ever.

   Personally, I find James Coburn as an actor to be brashly if not insufferably smug and self-centered. Perhaps not in all of his films, but in Dead Heat, he turns up the arrogance a notch or two. Don’t get me wrong, I can deal with it if the story’s got my attention, but in this movie, it’s James Coburn you get, or nothing at all.

   Maybe I’m just jealous? In this movie, at least, all he has to do is smile, and women simply fall in love (and into bed) with him. Good-looking, most of them — you needn’t ask. Poor Camilla Sparv, as one of his victims, who goes so far as to marry him and unwittingly aid his cause — that of robbing a bank, in case it’s slipped your mind.

   When she’s of no further use to him, she’s gone, all but out of mind and forgotten. And there’s where he makes his first (and only) mistake. Perhaps not in the way you might expect — nor me, either, since as a payoff, when it finally came, I threw up my hands and said, that’s it??

   As for Harrison Ford, and his first film appearance. Blink, and you’ll miss him. I did.