Spy Killer

"The Spy Killer" (1969, British) Credits: Robert Horton, Sebastian Cabot, Jill St. John, Barbara Shelley, Lee Montague, Kenneth Warren. Directed by: Roy (Ward) Baker.

Synopsis written by: Virginia Alexander

This is the first of two movies, filmed in England, shown in the U.S. on the ABC Movie of the Week, where Robert plays John Smith, a former secret agent and assassin who is now a private investigator.  Sebastian Cabot plays Max, the head of Smith‘s former spy agency.  Jill St. John plays Smith‘s girlfriend Mary. The plot is long and convoluted with many twists, turns, and betrayals.

Smith’s ex-wife hires him to collect evidence of her current husband’s affair with another man. Smith locates the husband in a maneuver involving impersonating a messenger and two changes of outer clothing in a phone booth.  After following the husband to an apartment and waiting for his camera to be delivered by his secretary, Smith approaches the apartment, where another man ushers Smith in and points to the husband’s bloody body on the floor.  After getting blood on his coat and hands, Smith picks up a bloody knife which he is holding as the police arrive.  The mystery man has departed without being seen by the police.

Smith is arrested as a murder suspect, but Max arranges his release from jail and takes Smith to his Max’s office where Max says that Smith’s release was arranged because Max wants the “notebook.”   Smith agrees to turn over the “notebook” even though he doesn’t know anything about a notebook. 

Smith brings flowers to his girlfriend’s apartment, and in the first shirtless segment, wakes up having a nightmare about a previous killing.  Mary heats water to make tea.

John Smith enters his ex-wife’s apartment, creating a terrific racket as goes through a window, locates a notebook hidden in a secret part of her jewelry box, and goes to his office where he makes two more similar notebooks.  Smith mails two of the three notebooks.

Smith goes to his own apartment where an intruder hits him with a pistol butt and takes one version of the notebook from Smith’s jacket pocket. Smith tells the intruder he has the wrong notebook. Smith and the intruder (holding a gun) both wait for the arrival of the morning post.  The postman arrives, but it is actually Max, who hands Smith a gun. Smith shoots the intruder.

In the second shirtless segment Smith bathes, walks draped in a towel, and puts on pajamas, while a cleanup crew summoned by Max removes the intruder’s body. 

The police take Smith back to jail again.  Max visits in jail and arranges a deal, twenty-five grand and someone else blamed for the original murder in exchange for the real notebook. 

 After this release from jail, Smith travels to France where he meets a friend who was mailed the real version of the notebook. The friend is another former secret agent, a code expert who has determined the notebook contains a list of names and addresses of western agents in China.

Then we see Smith hiding one notebook under a car battery and handing off another notebook to a man in a rowboat. Smith tells the man in a rowboat that the notebook he just gave him is not the real book, Smith will be right back with the real book. Smith steps away, a grenade is thrown into the rowboat. BAM!!

Smith goes back to his car and starts to open the hood, but he is led away at gunpoint. Smith is taken to another prospective buyer for the notebook, a chief agent for the other side.  Smith and the second buyer play golf and make plans for a London rendezvous to sell the notebook.

Smith returns to England and his girlfriend Mary.  Max’s henchmen take Smith to Max’s office. Max is unhappy because Smith has the twenty-five grand, but Max does not have the notebook.  An agent for the other side appears at Smith’s apartment. Smith collects a notebook and a gun from a safety-deposit box.

 Smith crosses a fence en-route to a rendezvous location.  We see two agents in one car and Max in another car.  Smith tells Max he knows the was just a set-up, Max doesn’t want the notebook, it really contains a list of Russian agents in China. Max really wants the other side to have the notebook and think it is the list Max doesn’t want them to have. 

Smith continues toward the rendezvous in a vacant building in an isolated area. Smith gives the notebook to the head agent of the other side and collects a satchel of money.  Someone shoots at Smith as he is leaving the rendezvous area. Smith goes back in the building, where he eludes and kills two agents. Smith tells another agent, Max’s agent, not to expect the scheme to work.

Smith returns to his apartment, where two of Max’s agents are waiting for him. Max arrives.  Smith tells Max he added an epilogue “tread carefully stranger” to the notebook so the other side will be suspicious of the book.  Max points out Smith’s girlfriend who is being held by Max’s agents and demands the return of the money.  At a safety-deposit box, Smith gives a large pile of money back to Max.

While Smith is dining at a restaurant with Mary, a waiter brings Smith an envelope of money which is a gift from a “stranger who tread carefully.”  Smith and Mary kiss.  THE END.

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