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Theatrical release poster
Directed byIrvin Kershner
Produced byRobert Chartoff
Irwin Winkler
Written byMalcolm Marmorstein Lawrence J. Cohen
Fred Freeman
StarringElliott Gould
Donald Sutherland
Music byJerry Goldsmith
CinematographyGerry Fisher
Edited byRobert Lawrence
Keith Palmer
American Film Properties
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • June 28, 1974 (1974-06-28)
Running time
100 min.
CountryUnited States
Box office$4,550,000 (US/ Canada)[1]

S*P*Y*S is a 1974 comedy directed by Irvin Kershner and starring Elliott Gould, Donald Sutherland, and Zouzou. The film was screened at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival, but was not entered into the main competition.[2]


Following an accident where two KGB agents are mistakenly killed during a failed attempt to help a Russian athlete's defection to the West, the head of CIA in Paris stipulates an agreement with his Russian counterpart to have two American agents killed in order to avoid retaliation. The choice falls on Bruland, an uptight agent passionate about his job and on the promotion ladder, and Griff, a somehow cynical and disillusioned courier. When the two men discover the plot, they form an uneasy alliance to try to escape, eventually getting involved with a French anarchist group and an independent French agent.



Filming took place in Paris and England. "Donald and I are very funny together," said Gould. "We're sort of Laurel and Hardy gone straight. Or half straight. And Kershner is very serious.It makes a good balance."[3]


The film was originally called Wet Stuff, after spy slang for blood.[4]

The asterisks in the title are designed to remind viewers of MASH,[citation needed] which also starred Gould and Sutherland, and whose title is generally rendered with the same asterisks. Beyond this, there is no connection between the films.


Nora Sayre of The New York Times wrote, "The only mystery contained in 'S*P*Y*S'—a feeble attempt to spoof the Central Intelligence Agency is why Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould ever chose to be in it."[5] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety called the film "a mess ... The script is tasteless, Irvin Kershner's direction is futile, and the whole effort comes across as vulgar, offensive and tawdry."[6] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film one-and-a-half stars out of four and criticized it for "creaky old jokes," writing that Kershner "plays for laughs as if the world has stood still for 20 years. The film's visual style has the look of a Hope and Crosby 'Road' picture, whereas the pacing and personalities of Sutherland and Gould are strictly contemporary."[7] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times called it "a trivial spy caper comedy ... not without its amusing touches but with almost nothing on its mind."[8] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote, "The material is not in the least fresh. The script sounds as if it had been sitting around gathering dust for several years, and whoever dusted it off failed to inject much in the way of new jokes or verbal wit. However, director Irvin Kershner brings so much energy and professionalism to this essentially tired assignment that it plays with considerable verve."[9]

The film grossed $1,148,674 in its opening weekend from 79 theaters.[10]


Shortly before the release of the film, as customary in the era, Pocket Books published a novelization of the screenplay, as by T. Robert Joyce. The by-line seems to exist nowhere else and may be a pseudonym.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p232. Please note this figure is rentals not total gross.
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: S*P*Y*S". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
  3. ^ Flip-Flop Life of Elliott Gould: Gould's Flip-Flop Life Blume, Mary. Los Angeles Times 9 Dec 1973: c26.
  4. ^ Blood brothers Mills, Bart. The Guardian (1959-2003); London (UK) [London (UK)]28 Aug 1973: 8.
  5. ^ Sayre, Nora (June 29, 1974). "The Screen: 'S*P*Y*S'". The New York Times. p. 16.
  6. ^ Murphy, Arthur D. (June 19, 1974). "Film Reviews: Spys". Variety. p. 18.
  7. ^ Siskel, Gene (July 8, 1974). "M*A*S*H sequel no S*M*A*S*H"". Chicago Tribune. p. 12, Section 2.1.5/4 stars
  8. ^ Champlin, Charles (August 21, 1974). "Gould, Sutherland in Caper". Los Angeles Times. p. 17, Part IV.
  9. ^ Arnold, Gary (June 28, 1974). "'S*P*Y*S' Uncovers One Old Plot And a Lot Of New Laughs". The Washington Post. p. B1.
  10. ^ "Remember what they did to the box office of M*A*S*H (advertisement)". Variety. July 3, 1974. p. 9.

External links[edit]