The Kremlin Letter - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Kremlin Letter Reviews

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November 26, 2016
Although usually dismissed as a misfire, The Kremlin Letter is a talky, but engaging, thriller with lavish cinematography and a marvelous screenplay, all wrapped up in a nice bow with the hands of unsinkable film veteran John Huston.
October 13, 2016
It's a dirty rotten low-down movie about dirty rotten low-down people. And delicious.

The plot: 5 Americans sent out to infiltrate the Moscow sex-and-drugs underworld to retrieve an incriminating document.

Viewing tips:

Try not to pay too much attention to the fate of the letter itself; that's just the McGuffin. I think an over-concentration on the letter is what turned off many reviewers when the movie was released. Let it go. It isn't really about the letter; it's about personal betrayal.

Stories are told about the old days of espionage, of people and incidents. It's great to have a film with a rich sense of history, and this works well to provide context and atmosphere, but it's actually more than that; try to pay close attention. It'll pay off.

OK, some of it's hokey around the edges; again, let it go.

General notes:

It's closely based on a novel by Noel Behn--descendant of Aphra Behn (d. 1698), the first woman in history to make a living playwriting. She was also a foreign spy for Charles II. Perhaps it's ironic (or genetic) that, as Wikipedia says,

"[B]iographer Janet Todd noted that Behn 'has a lethal combination of obscurity, secrecy and staginess which makes her an uneasy fit for any narrative, speculative or factual. She is not so much a woman to be unmasked as an unending combination of masks'".

What a cast list(!) They all give sterling performances, there are no star turns here. Using all their considerable talents, they completely inhabit their characters. But you have to give it up for the star turn by the spectacular and wonderful Richard Boone.

It also has one of the best abduction scenes ever--dynamic, surprising and excruciatingly suspenseful, worthy of the best Hitchcock.
May 19, 2013
Spy thriller missing in action--Huston's Unpolished Diamond!!!
May 18, 2013
John Huston's cold war spy drama is largely indecipherable (although a second viewing might clear some things up). Mostly taking place in behind closed doors in bedrooms or backrooms, spy work is portrayed as dirty business and Huston's bleak cynicism seeps into every pore. If you manage to stay alive, it would be impossible to cleanse yourself in this world. Despite its unfathomability, there are good performances from Richard Boone and Patrick O'Neal (not to mention Bibi Andersson and Max Von Sydow, on leave from Bergman; Orson Welles is too much himself) and Huston's cold mise-en-scene sort of works.
Super Reviewer
½ December 5, 2012
In "The Kremlin Letter," KGB Colonel Kosnov(Max von Sydow) has arrested an agent who was selling secrets back to the Americans. To make matters worse, he was in possession of a letter when he committed suicide that was pretty much a declaration of war on China. So, The Highwayman(Dean Jagger) assigns Ward(Richard Boone) to recruit Charles Rome(Patrick O'Neal) into their private little agency. He in turn is tasked with getting the bang back together that includes The Whore(Nigel Green) and Warlock(George Sanders). But The Erector Set(Niall MacGinnis) is unable to go to due to his arthritis, so his daughter B.A.(Barbara Parkins) takes his place as safecracker. And if that does not work out, then she could always try out for a fetish magazine...

To be fair, "The Kremlin Letter" is certainly a product of its time, not only in its Cold War intrigue but also in its changing social mores and generation gap, expressed in the underground scenes in both Moscow and New York that include positive portrayals of both gay men and women.(You have not lived until you have seen George Sanders in drag.) What separates this movie from the pack is not only Richard Boone hitting all the right notes and a heck of a kicker but also in its refreshingly cynical attitude towards espionage. The only difference between the Soviets and the Americans here is that the Soviets torture and the American agents perversely resort to blackmailing, pimping and drug dealing. That allows for the movie to deftly subvert expectations with Rome being the closest to a traditional hero on hand.
March 12, 2012
You need to have your thinking cap on for this offering from master director John Huston ,which seems to have been overlooked in the directors canon but deserves to be better known ,now it s finally out on DVD.

The plot has something to do with a letter which implicates America in an Anti Russian plot and the problems this letter is causing.
What follows is cross and double cross,mysterious agents,with very odd codenames and loads of talking in very cold rooms.

Thats not to say the film is boring ,far from it, Huston has a excellent cast who all give top grade performances including George Sanders Richard Boone and Nigel Green as part of the same spy network and Orson Welles and Max Von Sydow as rival Russian spies

the film would make interesting viewing alongside The Quiller Memorandum and the Ipcress File as its one of those films which one is grateful that someone decided to give it a DVD release.
June 19, 2011
"Nephew, didn't anyone ever teach you Revenge Is Sweet?"There are some Great Characters To Love & to Hate in this & it's a very Original Spy Movie.I saw it on FMC so it only showed 3 Star Names to it's credit, no mention of Orson Welles or Max Von Sydow.This turned out to be a pretty great Spy Movie.I totally loved Richard Boone as Ward who used the word "Nephew" at the beginning of every sentence..
January 13, 2010
Sometimes bewilderingly dense, but undoubtedly one of the best spy thrillers ever produced.
½ March 21, 2009
I only saw this on a bootlegged DVD with a poor transfer and audio, and that perhaps clouds my view of this film. Basically it is utterly unworthy of the talents of Bibi Andersson, Orson Welles, George Sanders, and Max von Sydow. The plot--a group of American mercenaries go undercover in Moscow to retrieve a letter proposing a USA-USSR alliance against China--is patently ridiculous, but I can take that. What I can't take is John Huston's rather pedestrian direction and the extraordinarily wooden acting of Patrick O'Neal. Perhaps the biggest culprit is the source material (Noel Behm's novel), which is plot heavy but character thin.
Super Reviewer
June 20, 2008
Not for all tastes, but it's the best spy movie I've yet seen. Takes more than one viewing to sort it all out.
I wish they'd reissue it on DVD.
November 25, 2007
"The Kremlin Letter" is a Cold War spy film from director John Huston. It focuses on the story of a young American agent and a team of spies that infiltrate the Soviet Union in an attempt to recover a letter compromising to the United States.

Patrick O'Neal is effective as Charles Rone, who is accepted as a spy due to his photographic memory. Also notable are Richard Boone as the genial mentor to Rone, Bibi Andersson as the desperate wife of a Soviet spy chief Kosnov and Barbara Parkins as an enchanting fellow agent. Orson Welles is solid in a minor role as a Soviet official. Veteran actor Max von Sydow has a good turn as Colonel Kosnov, a determined man with a brutal record, who organizes a "third section" of Soviet agents.

This is the seediest spy story I have seen to date. Harsh tactics are used by both the Americans and Soviets and agents are expected to compromise themselves to the fullest extent in the service of their country. The story remains interesting throughout with intrigue, duplicity and twists. The pace is slow, so this film is not recommend for those looking for a James Bond style spy thriller, but rather those looking for a John le Carré type spy story in the vein of "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold".
September 1, 2007
The "military hospital" in this film use to be my working place in Helsinki, Finland.

One of these (cold war) films where Helsinki is Russia.
½ July 13, 2007
A twisted, sick and perverse take on the cold war from John Huston...Patrick O'Neal as the ultimate Agency man is outmanipulated by a cast that includes Richard Boone, Bibi Anderson, Barbara Perkins and Orson Welles. Blacker than a New Year's Day breakfast in Helsinki.
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