The Chairman J. Lee Thompson

There are more laughs than thrills in this risible spy flick, which hedges its bets considerably while straining credulity at every turn. Gregory Peck plays a Nobel prize-winning scientist who’s asked by shady government agents to enter China and steal a special enzyme. They implant a receiver into Peck’s skull that unbeknownst to him, also doubles as an explosive device. But this is entirely beside the point: the main event of the movie is its cheesy evocation of China and its environs, including a ludicrously debauched Hong Kong and a really unconvincing traitor denunciation scene. Of course, there’s a noble doctor (Keye Luke) with a daughter (Zienia Merton) caught up in the Maoist cause, and there’s even a tête-à-tête between Peck and Mao (Conrad Yama) that inevitably takes place over a game of ping-pong. But there’s nothing here that even vaguely registers as recognisable human behaviour. Journeyman hack J. Lee Thompson is suitably garish and sensational in his sketching of both the Cultural Revolution and the Western skulduggery behind Peck, but even his broad strokes can’t conceal the dearth of intelligence or simple lack of adherence to craft. And of course, the movie tries to have it both ways by damning the far left and the entrenched right in an attempt to appeal to every possible persuasion. In reality, the only appeal this has is for camp fanciers — all others need not apply. Extras include a commentary by Eddie Friedfield and Lee Pfeiffer that’s understandably hung up on politics, two racy alternate scenes from the international cut and a 17-minute mini-version of the film assembled for reasons we may never know for sure. (Fox)