||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (November 2010)|
|Directed by||Ronald Neame|
|Produced by||Otto Plaschkes|
|Written by||Bryan Forbes
|Story by||Brian Garfield|
|Music by||Ian Fraser|
Brian W. Roy
|Distributed by||AVCO Embassy Pictures|
|Running time||104 minutes|
The film is a comedy starring Walter Matthau as Miles Kendig, a renegade CIA agent intent on publishing a memoir exposing the inner workings of the CIA and the KGB. Sam Waterston and Ned Beatty play Cutter and Myerson, Kendig's protégé and his obnoxious, incompetent, and profane former boss, respectively, and are repeatedly foiled in their attempts to capture him and stop the publication of the damaging memoir. Herbert Lom is Yaskov, the sympathetic KGB agent with an equal interest in his capture. Glenda Jackson plays Isobel von Schoenenberg, his Austrian love interest who helps him stay one step ahead of his captors.
Matthau and Jackson previously appeared together in the 1978 film House Calls. Matthau's son David plays Ross, a bumbling junior CIA agent. Matthau's step-daughter Lucy Saroyan plays the pilot, Carla Fleming.
The film was received in a lukewarm manner by critics and was a moderate financial success during its release. Matthau received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The Criterion Collection released the film to DVD in 2002.
The movie opens at Munich's Oktoberfest. Kendig and his team foil a microfilm transfer to an East German spy. However, they purposely do not apprehend Yaskov. Kendig is summoned to Washington, where his supervisor, Myerson (Beatty), is forcing Kendig into semi-retirement and a desk job because Kendig didn't arrest the Russian. Kendig resists, claiming to be "a field man", and, on his own initiative, takes leave, shredding his file en route. It is days before that is discovered. He goes to Salzburg, Austria to "hear some Mozart" and visit an old friend, Isobel Von Schoenenberg (Jackson). It is here that he seizes on the idea of writing a book exposing all the 'dirty tricks' of the CIA, KGB and other 'spy agencies'. Isobel is horrified to read the first chapter and tells Kendig that they'll all come after him to kill him. Nevertheless, he mails copies of the chapters to the various spy chiefs in the US, Russia, China, France and Great Britain. Soon enough, Myerson and Yaskov are after him, just as he wanted.
Kendig baits his pursuers by periodically informing them of his location while nevertheless staying one step ahead. Leaving Vienna, he rents Myerson's own Georgia country house, and writes a few more chapters. The CIA trace him there, but the FBI shows up as well, and hearing the firecrackers Kendig sets up to go off, start blasting away at the house with rifles in front of the frantic Myerson, who goes in to a fit of apoplexy as his house is destroyed by the FBI shooters. This scene is accompanied by the aria "Un bel Dì", the suicide scene from Madama Butterfly (Puccini).
Kendig flies to Bermuda by seaplane (piloted by a woman portrayed by Matthau's stepdaughter, Lucy Saroyan), then to London, to meet with his publisher (George Baker) to give him the last chapter of the book. Yaskov tells Cutter (Waterston), a former protégé of Kendig's and friend who has been tasked to pursue him, finding out that he is in London. Both the Soviets and the Americans go to London and find Kendig's hotel room, where he has left a tape recording telling them he has finished the book and that he will be escaping Britain by a small plane the next morning. He leaves a copy of the last chapter and the location of the airfield from which he plans to make his escape.
In the meantime, Kendig has contacted Isobel, who is under surveillance in Austria by the CIA. She cleverly escapes her watchers and goes to England by hovercraft. Kendig has also contracted with an engineer for a specialized electronic device for the airplane of unknown purpose.
Cutter and Myerson threaten Kendig's publisher but he rebuffs their attempts at intimidation. Kendig, on the way to the airfield, suffers a flat tire. He is assisted by the local police, who cordially invite him to wait in the station until the morning. When one policeman recognizes him from a bulletin, Kendig escapes by short-circuiting an electrical socket and stealing a police car.
He reaches the airfield in the morning, but the Americans and Russians are hovering overhead in a helicopter. He apparently takes off in his vintage biplane and is pursued by Myerson in the helicopter. He performs intricate loops in the plane evading the pistol shots from Myerson.
It is then revealed that the electronic device that Kendig had had built is a specialized remote control device. Kendig is actually still on the ground, controlling the plane from the near-ruinous former control building nearby. Once the plane has cleared the cliffs and is over the English Channel, he presses a button, exploding it, timed just as Myerson has fired at the biplane one more time. The Americans and Russians rush to the cliff, see the wreckage floating in the sea, and conclude that Kendig is dead – except Cutter, who sees through the plan and realizes that Kendig did not die in the plane ("He better stay dead") but decides to keep this insight to himself.
Kendig meanwhile returns to meet Von Schoenenberg and they set off for the south of France. Months later, the book has become a bestseller. Kendig is in a bookstore in disguise as a Sikh to purchase a copy. He learns from the clerk that the book is very good and that there is a rumor that Kendig is still alive in Australia. Von Schoenenberg pulls him aside and scolds him for taking too many risks.
- Otto Plaschkes - producer
- Ronald Neame - director
- Bryan Forbes - screenplay
- Brian Garfield - screenplay and novel
- Walter Matthau - Miles Kendig
- Glenda Jackson - Isobel von Schonenberg
- Sam Waterston - Joe Cutter
- Ned Beatty - Myerson
- Herbert Lom - Yaskov
- David Matthau - Leonard Ross
- George Baker - Parker Westlake
- Ivor Roberts - Ludlum
- Lucy Saroyan - Carla Fleming
- Severn Darden - Leroy Maddox
- George Pravda - Saint Breheret
- Jacquelyn Hyde - Realtor
- Mike Gwilym - Alfie Booker
- Terry Beaver - Tobin
- Ray Charleson - Clausen
- Christopher Driscoll - Policeman #1
- Michael Cronin - Policeman #2
- Roy Sampson - Police Sergeant
- Douglas Dirkson - Follett
- Anne Haney - Mrs. Myerson
- Shan Wilson - Spy in Oktoberfest
- Randy Patrick - Mechanic
- Joe Dorsey - Security Guard
- Candice Howard - Maddox's Receptionist
- Susan McShayne - Cocktail Waitress
- Yolanda King - Coffee Shop Manager
- Antony Carric - Salesman in Electric Shop
- Osman Ragheb - CIA Telephone Technician
- Roland Frölich - Border Guard
- Jeremy Young - Immigration Officer
- Sally Nesbitt - Telephone Operator
- Susan Engel - Westlake's Receptionist
- Joanna McCallum - Bookshop Cashier
- Laura Whyte - Myerson's Secretary
- Larry Larson - FBI Technician
- Seab Worthy - FBI Man
- Danny Covington - Bellman
The film has been described as a comedic variation on the 1975 dark thriller Three Days of the Condor starring Robert Redford, using the same premise of one CIA agent pursued by others intent on covering up dark secrets of the agency—or a comedic version of Philip Agee's rebellion. The movie has also been classified in the genre of post-Vietnam American comedies such as Stripes (1981) that played on the perceived incompetence of the federal government. The book's author explained in a documentary on the DVD that rather than basing the book on anything specific, he was unhappy with the spy movie genre, sensing that it had become more about gadgets, violence and sex than either realism or trickery, and wrote Hopscotch to be a spy novel without the sex, guns and gadgets.
The music includes many pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Notable examples include the aria "Non Più Andrai" from the opera The Marriage of Figaro, the andante movement from Eine kleine Nachtmusik, the first movement of Mozart's Piano Sonata No.11, K331 (best known for the third movement, the Rondo alla turca), the Posthorn Serenade, K320 and a Rondo in D, K382.
Hermann Prey's lusty singing of "Non Più Andrai" magnificently highlights the absurd antics of the old biplane as Myerson is shooting at it. The song tells how Cherubino ("little baby"), going into the army, will no longer be a dainty favorite, just as 5-foot-7 Myerson is going to lose his power at the CIA. Also, the song describes bullets flying and even bombs exploding.
There is also the aria "Largo al Factotum" from the opera The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini. Matthau sings this as he passes a border checkpoint. The words to the aria explain how everyone is looking for the barber, and he moves fast like lightning.
Kendig has the aria "Un Bel Dì Vedremo" ("One Beautiful Day") from Madame Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini playing loudly on the stereo as the FBI and CIA shoot up Myerson's wife's house. The operatic contrapunto adds a surreal air of ironic justice to the events as Madame Butterfly sings how she will hide from her husband.
Matthau, who had a great personal fondness for opera, is said to have selected the soundtrack himself. The director said however that conductor Ian Frasier found many of the Mozart pieces that fit the movie.
The credits also list "Once a Night" written by Jackie English and Beverly Bremers. This is the blaring song playing at the bar "The Other End" where Matthau goes to arrange his flight from Georgia.
- In Hopscotch - Criterion Collection DVD, special feature "Introduction by Neame & Garfield", director Neame stated that Matthau's agent made the suggestion that they ought to put in some Mozart because this would greatly please Matthau. As they looked into this they realized that it would much enhance the movie if Kendig loved Mozart. Ian Fraser was the arranger and found many sections of Mozart that fit the movie, but they couldn't find anything to go with Kendig typing. They asked Walter and he brought in some Mozart that went perfectly with it.
- Hopscotch at the Internet Movie Database
- Hopscotch at allmovie
- Criterion Collection essay by Bruce Eder