The Kremlin Letter (1970)

116 mins | Drama | 1 February 1970

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HISTORY

Screen rights to Noel Behn’s 1966 novel, The Kremlin Letter, were acquired by producer Sam Wiesenthal, who planned to make the film adaptation in association with his brother, Harold Wiesenthal, according to a 9 Sep 1966 DV item. Several months later, the 7 Apr 1967 DV reported that Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. had purchased the option from Sam Wiesenthal, and that Fox executive Richard D. Zanuck had recently assigned John Huston to write, produce, and direct the picture. Prior to the announcement of the Fox deal, Dell Books had prematurely released an advertisement for the paperback version of Behn’s novel, touting it as a “major 20th Century-Fox motion picture,” as noted in the 8 Mar 1967 Var. Huston sought Steve McQueen to play a leading role, but the actor was unable to participate due to prior commitments, according to a 12 Apr 1967 Var news brief. The following year, DV items published between Jul and Dec 1968 stated that Huston and Fox were in talks with actors Warren Beatty, James Coburn, and David Niven to star, although none appeared in the final film.
       The 27 Aug 1968 LAT noted that producer Carter De Haven, III, had re-teamed with Huston on The Kremlin Letter, after their recent collaboration on A Walk with Love and Death (1969, see entry). De Haven was quoted in a 1 Nov 1968 DV article as saying that the $6-$7 million project would not be filmed in Romania as initially planned because Romanian officials feared “Soviet displeasure” about the film’s content. Instead, Huston and De Haven ... More Less

Screen rights to Noel Behn’s 1966 novel, The Kremlin Letter, were acquired by producer Sam Wiesenthal, who planned to make the film adaptation in association with his brother, Harold Wiesenthal, according to a 9 Sep 1966 DV item. Several months later, the 7 Apr 1967 DV reported that Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. had purchased the option from Sam Wiesenthal, and that Fox executive Richard D. Zanuck had recently assigned John Huston to write, produce, and direct the picture. Prior to the announcement of the Fox deal, Dell Books had prematurely released an advertisement for the paperback version of Behn’s novel, touting it as a “major 20th Century-Fox motion picture,” as noted in the 8 Mar 1967 Var. Huston sought Steve McQueen to play a leading role, but the actor was unable to participate due to prior commitments, according to a 12 Apr 1967 Var news brief. The following year, DV items published between Jul and Dec 1968 stated that Huston and Fox were in talks with actors Warren Beatty, James Coburn, and David Niven to star, although none appeared in the final film.
       The 27 Aug 1968 LAT noted that producer Carter De Haven, III, had re-teamed with Huston on The Kremlin Letter, after their recent collaboration on A Walk with Love and Death (1969, see entry). De Haven was quoted in a 1 Nov 1968 DV article as saying that the $6-$7 million project would not be filmed in Romania as initially planned because Romanian officials feared “Soviet displeasure” about the film’s content. Instead, Huston and De Haven planned to visit the U.S.S.R. for research only. It was later rumored in a 16 May 1969 DV item that they had smuggled footage of the Bolshoi Ballet out of the country, to be used in the film.
       A production chart in the 21 Feb 1969 DV noted that principal photography had begun on 17 Feb 1969 in Helsinki, Finland, which doubled as Moscow. According to an article in the 11 May 1969 LAT, the reproduction of Moscow Square, including a full-size Vladimir Lenin statue, angered the U.S.S.R., which responded by putting diplomatic pressure on the Finns and denying visas to people associated with the film. The following month, a 19 Mar 1969 Var brief reported that production had moved to Rome, Italy, where some shooting took place at Dino De Laurentiis Studios. From Rome, cast and crew moved to New York City, the 27 Apr 1969 NYT reported. Additional shooting was set to be completed in Mexico City, Mexico, according to various contemporary sources including the 9 May 1969 DV.
       Although De Haven referred to The Kremlin Letter as a “borderline X” film due to its nudity, drugs, and perversion, it ultimately received an “M” rating (for mature audiences) from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Theatrical release took place in New York City on 1 Feb 1970. The picture went on to become a critical and commercial failure. It was referred to as a “bomb” in the 5 Apr 1970 LAT, and the 13 Jan 1971 Var called it a “wrecker” for Fox, whose negative expenditure was said to have approached $6 million, while the movie’s domestic box-office gross was still shy of $1 million.
       Michael Maslansky served as publicist, as stated in a 2 Apr 1969 Var article. Items in the 17 Feb 1969 DV and 21 Feb 1969 LAT indicated that Sam Jaffe was a cast member. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
9 Sep 1966
p. 8.
Daily Variety
7 Apr 1967
p. 1.
Daily Variety
29 Jul 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Aug 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
1 Nov 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
10 Dec 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
3 Feb 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Feb 1969
p. 3.
Daily Variety
21 Feb 1969
p. 12.
Daily Variety
9 May 1969
p. 3.
Daily Variety
16 May 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Oct 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Jan 1970
p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
27 Aug 1968
Section D, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
21 Feb 1969
Section J, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
14 Apr 1969
Section F, p. 28.
Los Angeles Times
11 May 1969
Section O, p. 1, 25.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jun 1969
Section E, p, 9.
Los Angeles Times
24 Feb 1970
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
5 Mar 1970
Section E, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
5 Apr 1970
Section P, p. 11.
New York Times
10 Apr 1967.
---
New York Times
27 Apr 1969
Section D, p. 14.
New York Times
5 Jun 1969.
---
New York Times
2 Feb 1970.
---
Variety
11 Jan 1967
p. 4.
Variety
8 Mar 1967
p. 20.
Variety
12 Apr 1967
p. 5.
Variety
19 Mar 1969
p. 19.
Variety
2 Apr 1969
p. 34.
Variety
28 Jan 1970
p. 17.
Variety
13 Jan 1971
p. 27.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A John Huston-Carter De Haven Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Scenic artist
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus & mus dir
Mus comp & cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Casting dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Kremlin Letter by Noel Behn (New York, 1966).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 February 1970
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 1 February 1970
Los Angeles opening: 4 March 1970
Production Date:
began 17 February 1969
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
30 December 1969
Copyright Number:
LP37643
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
116
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
22241
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

An American intelligence officer signs an agreement with the Soviet Union stating that both countries will attack China, and the U.S. government hastily assembles a group of espionage agents to recover the unauthorized treaty called the "Kremlin Letter." The team, under the leadership of "The Highwayman," consists of Rone, a retired U.S. Navy officer; B.A., a safecracker's daughter who replaces her ailing father on the mission; Janis, a small-time pimp from a Mexican brothel; "The Warlock," a transvestite found in a San Francisco gay bar; and Ward, the Highwayman's top assistant. In New York, the Americans have a lesbian seduce the daughter of U.S.-based Russian spy Potkin in order to blackmail him into turning over his Moscow apartment as a base for their operations. In Moscow, they bug the residence of Secret Police Chief Kosnov, who is married to Erika, the widow of an enemy spy; Kosnov is currently engaged in a power struggle with political leader Aleksei Bresnavitch. Meanwhile, B.A., who has become Rone's lover, is captured by Bresnavitch. When Ward temporarily leaves the country, Potkin confesses to Bresnavitch what has happened. Bresnavitch has another problem, however: Rone has discovered that Bresnavitch is a traitor and that the Kremlin Letter is in Peking. Ward is also revealed to be a traitor, working for Bresnavitch. Upon his return, Ward kills Erika, who had devised a plan to sneak Rone out of Russia, and at the airport, he also murders Kosnov, an old friend who had double-crossed him several years ago. By now Rone is ready to retire, but Ward will release B.A. only if Rone will return to the U.S. for one more mission--to murder Potkin's wife and daughter. ... +


An American intelligence officer signs an agreement with the Soviet Union stating that both countries will attack China, and the U.S. government hastily assembles a group of espionage agents to recover the unauthorized treaty called the "Kremlin Letter." The team, under the leadership of "The Highwayman," consists of Rone, a retired U.S. Navy officer; B.A., a safecracker's daughter who replaces her ailing father on the mission; Janis, a small-time pimp from a Mexican brothel; "The Warlock," a transvestite found in a San Francisco gay bar; and Ward, the Highwayman's top assistant. In New York, the Americans have a lesbian seduce the daughter of U.S.-based Russian spy Potkin in order to blackmail him into turning over his Moscow apartment as a base for their operations. In Moscow, they bug the residence of Secret Police Chief Kosnov, who is married to Erika, the widow of an enemy spy; Kosnov is currently engaged in a power struggle with political leader Aleksei Bresnavitch. Meanwhile, B.A., who has become Rone's lover, is captured by Bresnavitch. When Ward temporarily leaves the country, Potkin confesses to Bresnavitch what has happened. Bresnavitch has another problem, however: Rone has discovered that Bresnavitch is a traitor and that the Kremlin Letter is in Peking. Ward is also revealed to be a traitor, working for Bresnavitch. Upon his return, Ward kills Erika, who had devised a plan to sneak Rone out of Russia, and at the airport, he also murders Kosnov, an old friend who had double-crossed him several years ago. By now Rone is ready to retire, but Ward will release B.A. only if Rone will return to the U.S. for one more mission--to murder Potkin's wife and daughter. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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