15 March 2013 | zardoz-13
The Dumbest Man in the World
"Guns of Navarone" director J. Lee Thompson and leading man Gregory Peck teamed up for the fourth time in the Cold War era thriller "The Chairman," but this preposterous spy thriller has little to distinguish it aside from its gimmick. When an agricultural enzyme enables the Red Chinese to grow crops despite adversarial climate conditions, the Americans dispatch an American scientist, Dr. John Hathaway (Gregory Peck of "MacKenna's Gold"), to go to China and confabulate with his old colleague from his Princeton days. Now, the gimmick is that the Americans have planted a small plastic receiver in the back of his head that allows him to talk to them about his progress without relying on any external device. Basically, aside from showing our well-dressed protagonist what he has in his head, this film doesn't have to worry about concealing some costly electronic device. Meantime, the suspicious Red Chinese cannot figure out how our hero is communicating with the Americans. After a long, tedious build up that includes a meeting with Chairman Mao during a ping-pong game, Hathaway has to make a desperate bid for the border. Thompson cuts back and forth between Hathaway and the American military who keep tabs on his progress. Gregory Peck wears his trench coat well, but he is no more convincing as a scientist than he is a spy. What a dreary mess with a last-minute revelation that develops little tension.