Hollywood Lost and Found

"Hopscotch" (1980)

Miles Kendig (Walter Matthau), an experienced CIA operative, is unceremoniously retired to a desk-job by a vindictive new boss (Ned Beatty). Rather than get mad, Kendig decides to get even by writing his memoirs - and spilling every dirty little secret he knows about his boss and the agency. And thus begins a chase, from Washington to Vienna to Switzerland to London and back again. Kendig manages to stay one step ahead of the operatives on his tail, while sending out individual chapters of his book on the way.

The film features Glenda Jackson as an ex-agent and old flame of Kendig's who helps him on his adventurous scheme; Herbert Lom as the head of the KGB; and Sam Waterston as Kendig's protege Joe Cutter, who reluctantly but dutifully searches for his estranged hero.

"Hopscotch" is a smart comedy that doesn't resort to slapstick humor, being crude, or violent. Although the action is not very fast paced, it's a fun ride thanks to the clever dialogue, the ever-changing scenery, and the intelligent hero played by the extremely likable Matthau – not to mention his undeniable chemistry with Jackson.

"Hopscotch" is directed by Ronald Neame, and written by Bryan Forbes and Brian Garfield (based on Garfield's novel). The music is almost entirely by Mozart. The film is rated "R" for language.

The DVD release includes interviews with Neame and Garfield, and contains an alternate audio track with the swearing and other profanities replaced "for family viewing." It's strange that more DVDs don't include this audio feature, especially when almost every commercial motion picture made today has a "TV Version" of the soundtrack created at the same time the theatrical version is made.

- Steve Lee
18 July 2006

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