SOL MADRID. MGM, 1968. David McCallum, Stella Stevens, Telly Savalas, Ricardo Montalban, Rip Torn, Pat Hingle, Paul Lukas, Capo Riccione, Michael Ansara. Screenplay by David Karp based on the book Fruit of the Poppy by Robert Wilder. Director: Brian G. Hutton.

   Hot off his television role in CBS’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E., David McCallum starred in the hardboiled thriller, Sol Madrid. Featuring an alternatively psychedelic and jazzy score by Lalo Schifrin, Sol Madrid has McCallum portraying the eponymous title character, a cynical, at times ruthless Interpol agent tasked with bringing down a heroin ring run by flamboyant criminal mastermind by the name of Emil Dietrich (a scenery-chewing Telly Savalas).

   Set in Mexico, the movie also features Rip Torn as a sadistic mafia boss, Stella Stevens as a nice small town girl who gets herself mixed up with some unsavory characters, and Ricardo Montalban as Madrid’s Mexican Interpol contact who wants nothing more than to live it up and retire early.

   Although the plot really is quite basic with very little new to offer, the movie’s explicit depiction of heroin usage certainly pushed boundaries when it was first released. Not only does the movie begin with a seedy scene in a shooting gallery, there’s also a horrific sequence in which Rip Torn’s character tortures a girl by deliberately getting her hooked on dope.

   Despite some tense moments and some terse dialogue, the movie ends up feeling tremendously incomplete. Not only does one get the impression that some of the movie’s most important sequences may have been edited out, but one can’t help but wonder whether most of the actors in the film were simply there for their paycheck. In more ways than one, that is a real shame, for Sol Madrid really had the potential to be something far more than just another rather forgettable late 1960s studio production, albeit one with just enough punch to it to make you want to watch to the very end.