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  • I don't agree with some reviews here . Really this is a movie with an original screenplay that keep suspense throughout all the movie , something that so many Hollywood movies don't achieve even if they try . The music soundtrack is excellent, by Spanish composer Roque Baños, and Timothy Hutton does a fantastic job in this film. This is a good genre film and as that it fully achieves its goals. David Kelly does a fantastic job too in his role . The director is Daniel Monzón , previously a movie critic for Fotogramas magazine and this is his 3rd movie as a director . In resume , this movie don't pretend to be nothing but a genre movie. And as that it succeeds.
  • "La caja Kovak" follows American science-fiction best-selling author David Norton (Timothy Hutton), who goes on a part business, part pleasure trip to the Spanish island of Mallorca with his girlfriend. He proposes to her and she accepts. On that very night, she jumps off their hotel balcony and kills herself after a short stay at the local hospital. In the bed next to her is Sylvia (Lucía Jiménez), a young woman who found herself jumping off the balcony without having any recollection of how and why she did it. Both women did it right after their phone rang and the song "Gloomy Sunday" began to play on the other end of the line. Together, David and Sylvia decide to try and solve the mystery.

    The introduction is well done and it lures you into watching more, wanting to know how a song can make apparently normal people want to kill themselves. However, it evolves into a bizarre and not always efficient mix of thriller and science-fiction that completely fails to keep up the suspenseful and supernatural tone of the start, and is in fact rather dull and inconclusive at times. The characters are also quite poorly written -except for David Kelly's character maybe, the most interesting of the whole bunch- and they become quite predictable, as is the ending. Also, many clues thrown in along the way are never properly answered to.

    All in all, it's an okay movie, one to watch and easily forget.
  • THE KOVAK BOX is a successful little suspense/psychological thriller from the Spanish writers Daniel Monzón (who also directs) and Jorge Guerricaechevarría. The story may be a bit far fetched, but then what horror story isn't? The premise for the tale holds up well and is aided by some very fine performances by a mixture of Spanish, English, and American actors. The mood of the film is beautifully set during opening credits by a complex maze in which a white rat sniffs and ambulates from confusing corner to confusing wall - just the manner in which director Monzón plans to tell his story.

    David Norton (Timothy Hutton) is a celebrated science fiction novelist visiting Majorca for a special conference accompanied by his soon to be fiancée Jane (Georgia Mackenzie). David has been having premonitions on his flight to the conference and those brooding thoughts continue as he registers for the conference and finds little disturbing clues that culminate in Jane's suicide leap from their hotel balcony. Almost simultaneously an attractive Spanish girl Silvia (Lucía Jiménez) in the same hotel 'jumps' from her balcony but is saved from death by falling onto an awning. Jane dies in the hospital: Silvia is in the bed next to Jane, witnesses David's grief, and the beginning of a bond is created.

    David meets a strange old man Frank Kovak (David Kelly) who seeks an autograph of David's first novel 'Gloomy Sunday' and from there the mystery begins. David becomes the unknowing main character in a sci-fi story that mimics ideas from his own first book, a story about the implantation of devices in humans that would enable a central force to assist the victims in their own destructive ends. The plot is tightly woven from this point on and to reveal any portion of it would diminish the chair-gripping finale.

    Timothy Hutton seems an odd choice for the main character of the film until his combination of cool intellect and understated passion clicks in. The film is graced by the presence of the talented Lucía Jiménez who seems to have the potential of becoming another Penelope Cruz! The cinematography by Carles Gusi and musical score by Roque Baños make the setting visually and aurally spectacular. For those who enjoy mind bender thrillers, THE KOVAK BOX will certainly please. Grady Harp
  • A Hitchcokian retreaded plot line is welded to A-movie production values to great effect in thriller "The Kovak Box." A crazed scientist plays God on a gorgeous Mediterranean island, causing sexy Spanish sirens to jump off roofs )often naked!) in Manchurian-like premise. Although lacking in originality, this slickly made thriller still manages some sense of freshness largely thanks to a great cast, including a terrific performance by Irish vet David Kelly. great paranoid thriller less concerned with CGI explosions and improbable chase and more concerned with ideas like the power fo suggestion. Still, the film does contain enough shock, action and beautiful locations (not to mention sultry Spanish chicks) to hold most Americans attention!
  • Just watched this movie and it really held my attention. I am easily bored but this movie kept me interested all the way through. You have to pay attention because the story is very unusual, which makes it all the more interesting. This is the story of a mad scientist who wants to create a legacy and does so in a very unusual manner. The story begins with a number of people committing or attempting to commit suicide. The reason for this suicide outbreak is the plot of the movie. The acting was very good by both Timothy Hutton and the beautiful Spanish actress Lucia Jimenez. I enjoyed the suspense of the movie and towards the end there is a lot of action which reminded me of a James Bond movie. The twisted madman and the crazy scheme was also reminiscent of a Bond movie. I recommend this movie highly but pay attention so you know what is going on. 8/10
  • The story concerns about David (Timothy Hutton), a sci-fi bestsellers author . He arrives in Mallorca (Spain) along with his fiancée . But after a phone call , she spontaneously jumps from hotel balcony , committing herself suicide. The writer investigates the deeds but happen lots of people committing suicide all around him . Later on , he meets Silvia (Lucia Jimenez) who has survived her own and inexplicable suicide trying , jumping from a room . Both of them join forces and are plunged into a nightmarish game . They pursue a suspect doctor (Gary Piquer) with dark intentions . Meanwhile , David is appointed a strange character named Kovak (David Kelly) who hands him over a rare box . The plot stretches plausibility to the final breakpoint, proceeded in the Caves of the Hell.

    This exciting picture packs suspense , noisy action , twists plots , tension and marvelous landscapes from island of Mallorca . The film contains thrills and chills and is quite entertaining because is a laborious and intriguing suspense tale . Timothy Hutton is good as a writer who becomes the reluctant hero of one of his own stories , though this time , he has no idea how it ends . Interesting and thrilling screenplay by Jorge Guerricaechevarria (Alex De Iglesia's usual screenwriter) . Colorful cinematography by Carlos Gusi (Torrente, Box 507) who photographs splendidly island Mallorca outdoors and luxurious interiors . Spectacular and atmospheric musical score by Roque Baños (Fragiles , Machinist ,Sexy beast ,800 bullets). The motion picture was well directed by Daniel Monzon , a former cinema critic . He previously directed fantasy (Heart of warrior ) , comedy (Biggest robbery never told) and wrote the thriller ¨Camino de Paraiso¨ ; his greatest hit was the prison movie titled ¨Celda 201¨ . Rating : Good , better than average . The film will appeal to twisted stories buffs and Timothy Hutton fans.
  • daniel-16929 September 2006
    Usually, people write summaries of the story, but I won't. The plot summary on the movie page is good enough. :) It's important not to give away the story to get the most out of this film.

    I really liked the movie. It was extremely well put together with a tight script. It had nice photography and a great score. The story is engrossing and you connect with the characters and I found myself unable to second guess them very much (something that is a constant problem in present day Hollywood productions, it is far to easy to think up easy solutions to their predicaments that they so conveniently miss just so that the story can continue).

    I saw the movie at the Fantastisk Filmfestival (FFF) here i Lund, Sweden, today (a few hours ago). The director was present at the screening (apparently the third screening worldwide and the movie will have a wider release early next year) and I had a chance to talk to him. We talked about his inspirations for the movie (9/11 among other things, but not in any way that you really can understand from seeing the film), the progress of science into fiction and vice versa and the fact that he had set out to make a "Hitchcockean" movie (something I think he managed, albeit I must admit that I'm embarrassingly lacking in knowledge of Hitchkock's works, I found "The Birds" quite unwatchable for example).

    Either way, I highly recommend this movie to anyone who likes mysteries and a good thriller.
  • I kept reading the description of this Movie as a Sci-Fi genre. It isn't.

    It's more a Suspense Thriller. NOT an ACTION Thriller-- A Suspense Thriller. But you have to be patient. It starts off with what seems to be two disparate story lines than will slam together very soon.

    A writer on book signing tour becomes embroiled in a very convoluted and deadly conspiracy which centers around one of his books.

    The tone and visual flow of the movie makes me think of the old Bond Movies-- but like I said-- this is NOT an action flick. The web of conspiracy makes me think of some old spy Movies-- yet this isn't a Spy Movie.

    Another reviewer hit a bulls-eye with one descriptor-- Hitchcock. This is Hitchcock for the 21st century.

    SO this one is a movie for a Saturday Evening. You have to be ready to think and LISTEN to the dialogue. If your Girlfriend does not pay attention with you, you need a smarter girlfriend.

    Oh, and this movie goes good with wine.
  • As a writer myself, I found this to be an excellent movie--and one reason why I would call it "The Writer's Nightmare". Many of the thoughts expressed in the movie will resonate with most writers, and certainly also give them food for thought. It touches on why writers write--for commercial reasons, to please the masses; or for personal reasons; or for other, more darker reasons.

    Every writer hopes to one day write "the masterpiece", the "Great American Novel" or "Great Canadian Novel" (in my case), and that's what much of this movie hinges on.

    I will say that although I think Timothy Hutton is a great choice for the lead character, he certainly doesn't portray a lot of emotion on the surface.
  • topflyer3817 April 2007
    Warning: Spoilers
    At the end of the movie, I was paralyzed, caught with mixed feelings about the blatantly simple conclusion to a rather fantastic idea. The introduction sucked me in, and the subtle attempt of a story within a story had me thinking this was something special. Kelly's character sets up a plan to leave his mark on the world, similar to Tobin Bell's character Jigsaw in the Saw movies, but unlike Jigsaw, gives all the puzzle pieces to the protagonist, played by Hutton. This left me to think, what more is there to this story? After seeing Kelly's character explains all his motives, I spent the rest of the movie thinking there must be some twisted ulterior plot. Before I knew it, the movie was over and I felt cheated out of my anticipation.

    The shallow character development certainly didn't give the movie any hope either. Kelly and Hutton play a typical deranged villain and remorseful hero, and the viewer doesn't see much emotional or psychological character play in either one. There was however some redemption in Lucía Jiménez's dramatic portrayal of a desperate victim and in the great scenery and cinematography. While many people today despise some of the generic Hollywood slashers, this movie does not offer much better. If you are interested in some nice shots of the Balearic Islands, check out the movie, but if you're looking for a good mystery/thriller, don't bother leaving your couch.
  • I love the basic premise of this movie and it sounded like it could be good based on the plot, filming locations, and some decent actors.

    Unfortunately the movie fails at being creepy, scary, or even creating any form of tension. I get the feeling that the actors were just going through the motion.

    There is no chemistry between the two main characters, the Villain seems very weak, and there are no real surprised or twists.

    This movie seems like a toned down "In the Mouth of Madness" filmed in the Mediterranean.

    My best advice is to rent In The Mouth of Madness instead.

    Dean
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The movie begins. A mouse is trapped. It is trapped in a maze. A maze controlled by someone, to guide the mouse. The maze seem endless. Such is the beginning of the Kovak Box, but it is also the entire movie played out in a single opening sequence.

    Is there a need then, to continue watching the movie? Yes, of course. The movie is anything but predictable. Even though you know you are entering a maze, you have no idea what it looks like, or what turns you must take a long the way, and make no mistake, you, the watcher, are as much trapped within this movie as David Norton, the writer.

    I would like to tell a bit about the plot, but beware of the words, they must be vague.

    The writer, David Norton (Timothy Hutton), is going to Mallorca, with his girlfriend Jane. He is attending a conference in his honor. He is a science fiction writer, but is currently looking for that next masterpiece that will make the world remember him forever. On the plane there, he deletes an idea that might have been something from a David Cronenberg film. And yes, I would have watched that movie as well, gladly. But this story is not the one that David is looking for. There is another couple on the plane, but the movie makes no attempt to hide the fact that we should only be interested in the woman. At this point, there is no connection between the two, but that is about to change.

    On the island strange things start to happen. A Russian hit-man. The arrival of a mysterious DVD with a monkey that kills itself. Strange phone calls and music. Suicides. It is all connected, of course, but only revealed by the end.

    This started with the feeling of a Cronenberg film (I wonder if its a coincidence that the main character was named David?), but turned into a Fincher film (another David...), and for a second reminded me a bit about The Game. When that is said, while Timothy Hutton does a nice job at playing the role of the writer, the characters surrounding him are not the likes of which Cronenberg, Fincher or even Lynch (a third David...) would have used.

    I like the overall premise of the film, but by the end, too much is explained. The three Davids would never have explained this much, they would have challenged the watcher to find the answers for himself. This is the biggest problem of the movie. Was it worth watching? Yes, of course. Could it have been better? Yes, surely, but I would have no trouble going back and seeing it a second time.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Have you ever watched a lobotomized movie? You know, one that started out really smart and then suddenly became really dumb for no apparent reason? The Kovak Box is that sort of film.

    It begins by focusing on two different people. David Norton (Timothy Hutton) is a famous science fiction author taking his girlfriend to Spain for a speaking appearance. On the plane with them is Sylvia (Lucia Jimenez), a young Spanish woman returning home from the United States. Initially, their lives don't appear to have anything to do with one another. While David is asking his girlfriend to marry him, Sylvia goes out dancing and hooks up with the club DJ. But then David's girlfriend commits suicide for no reason…and Sylvia tries to do the same by jumping out of her apartment window after hearing a song on her cell phone. Sylvia wakes up in the hospital with no memory of what happened and can't imagine why she would have tried to kill herself. David also can't imagine why his girlfriend took her own life, but the reason for both incidents is the same and leads David and Sylvia into strangely sedated conflict with Frank Kovak and his horrific experiments in mind control.

    This movie starts out very strong and by the time Sylvia's naked body plunges from her apartment window, I had no idea what was going on and was really interested in finding out. Unfortunately, within 15 minutes I had completely figured out what was going on and spent the next hour and a half watching the film degenerate into a confused, poorly written, generic thriller.

    The confusion comes when the film changes its mind as to what it's supposed to be about. The story introduces us to something called a Kovak Box. It's a device where lab rats go through a maze and have their behavior modified through positive and negative stimulus. It's obvious that the genesis of this movie was the idea of taking a person's life and transforming it into a real Kovak Box where the person would be manipulated into behaving a certain way and the goal would be to overcome that manipulation. So, that's how the story is set up but that's not how it unfolds. That's because at some point the filmmakers became more interested in the story as a metaphor for the creative impulse and the writing process where Frank Kovak wants David to write Kovak's life story. Imagine a sports movie that starts out being about a football team needing to win the big game, but then changes to be about the lead quarterback's efforts to learn to play the violin.

    The Kovak Box has the same glaring flaw of just about every poorly written film as well. There are multiple times through the story where characters have to stop and say out loud what the movie is about and dump a bunch of information on the audience so the story can move forward. The whole point of a moving picture is to show and not tell, but The Kovak Box repeatedly has both David and Kovak bluntly run down the story so far and where it needs to go now, without which the movie couldn't inch from scene to scene. There are also times when the writer of the movie clearly doesn't understand what he's writing about, such as when he confuses the difference between having a vivid imagination and having perfect recall.

    There's also clichés a plenty, from "the race against time" to "no one believes the main characters when they explain the threat" to "the villain explains his plans", which actually happens three different times. And after starting out with Sylvia being an equal character to David, she quickly becomes nothing more than a damsel in distress waiting to be rescued.

    The Kovak Box is one of those movies where if you're not paying attention, you might be fooled into thinking it's much better than what it is, another interesting idea pressed into the same cookie cutter format used so many times before.
  • tedg21 February 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    There is a standard form for a movie like this. Its so heavily imprinted that when you encounter a deviation, it shocks.

    We have a writer who wrote a book that comes alive. We expect that the relationship between book (the film within) and reality will be adjudicated on the viewer's side. Here it is all within the story. Instead of an overlap we weave with our genius, this movie presents us with an on screen evil genius who makes things overlap.

    He literally read the book and then followed the story within.

    All in all, this is a pretty unsuccessful movie, in several ways. But it still grabs us because of this strange twist on the twist mechanism.

    I still don't understand the title, a rare thing for me.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Hitchcockian. God, I hate that word. It's impossible to critique this movie, though, without using it. This movie is as Hitchcockian as they come. The director isn't just heavily influenced, he's the living reincarnation of Sir Alfred. The reluctant, conspiratorially challenged dashing leading man. The sexy bombshell with the bad accent. The virtuosically filmed lush exotic European locale. The chillingly creepy arch villain. The meticulously engineered ebb and flow of dramatic tension. Like all Hitchcock films, this offering just oozes with style.

    Had Hitchock directed this film towards the end of his career (early 70s), it would have garnered him an Academy Award. It's that good. Considering that it's an English speaking film directed by a Spanish speaking director... it's an amazing achievement.

    Unfortunately, as much as I'm impressed by the Director's ability to work in another language while channeling the spirit of Hitchcock... this is not the 1970s. This, as I'm sure you're all aware... is 2007. Has anyone watched a Hitchock film lately? Some, not all, were groundbreaking for their time. As appealing as they may have been... this appeal is not timeless. 10 years later, I think they were still pretty awe inspiring. Even after 20 years, I'm sure they held their own. But 40 years later? The movie industry has come a long way since Hitchcock. Historically, Al gets props. Big props. I might even give him the crown of being the most influential film maker of all time. If one were to show Hitchcocks's films on screens next to the better films of today, though... most people would find the films of today to be superior.

    It's kind of ironic, actually. This film not only captures the strengths of Hitchcock, it also seems to portray his weaknesses as well. Just like the master, some of the plot points can get stretched a little thin. Plot seems to always play second fiddle to the cultivation of tension and this is no exception. And, like a few of Hitchcock's leading ladies of foreign birth, a mouthful of marbles seems to be a prerequisite.

    Don't get me wrong... it's a very good film. It's just not as outrageously wonderful as it would have been had it been presented 40 years ago.

    If you love Hitchcock, run to see it. If not, see it anyway, but don't exert yourself too much in the process.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I really enjoyed this movie, while I didn't know too much what to expect as I avoided any spoilers, it was a great flick! Acting was pretty nice and the story line was something you wouldn't have seen coming. I like films where you're kind of left in the dark at first and slowly shown the light. Interesting premise too!

    (Spoilers Below) The basic premise is a SciFi author is invited to attend a book signing/discussion event, but while he is there strange things start to happen. Soon, he finds himself forced into trying to help solve what amounts to people being compelled to kill themselves, usually by some type of messy accident. Enter creepy old man, Russian contract killer, and hot chick from Spain (nice shower scene too!). Later he finds that he is basically involved in a weird type of experiment to force him into writing a new book. While this is the gist of it, this really hasn't ruined any of it for you (you could have stopped reading).

    Trust me on this one, it is worth your time if you want a good action flick with some cool scifi themes built-in.
  • If you have any reverence for the recordings of Billie Holiday, this film should strike you as outrageous in its exploitive use of her recording of 'Gloomy Sunday' as the triggering mechanism for mass suicide. But, truth to tell, I was absolutely enthralled by a pulp Science Fiction film that becomes more hilariously preposterous, scene by scene. Disjointed, illogical, derivative, boringly repetitive, here is a film that might have best been broken up into serial chapters and shown a chapter at a time, were it still the double feature / short subject 40s. Timothy Hutton plays the lead with complete command of all the nuances allowed to someone who operates out of the wooden Indian school of acting. This film should serve to nail the coffin lid securely down on the corpse of his cinematic acting career. The damsels in distress (there are two of them) are comely but always allowed to wander off and get into trouble, which necessitates rescue by our hero. There are those who have detected a Hitchcockian aroma wafting from this film, but that only brings into question Hitchcock's dubious and inflated reputation.
  • It's possible to have a great budget, good editing, and an interesting plot, and still come up with an absolute clanger. This movie is it. It manages to be eerie without tension, creepy and repulsive without any fascination, and stylish without any substance whatsoever. The plot is poorly structured, frustrating the viewer with too much information too soon, and tries to reintroduce suspense through the use of music and silly plot twists. The dialogue is poorly written and badly performed by actors chosen mainly for looks and European accents; character motivations seem strange or nonexistent, and lines are delivered deadpan or with too much force. It feels like a bad play performed in a nightmare, by vaudeville actors doing melodrama. It's a Dan Brown novel without the acid, and it suffers. Beware! Idiots at Large! "They" will get you!
  • koali9 October 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    Daniel Monzón, whose "El Corazón del Guerrero" was an interesting fantasy flick, delves into thriller territory with "The Kovak Box", filmed in English with a combination of Spanish and English-speaking actors.

    I'm not a native English speaker by any means, but the dialog made me cringe. Lucía Jimenez speaks with a thick Spanish accent even though her character is supposed (I believe) to be a native English speaker. The movie mixes Spanish and English in confusing ways, and some bits of dialog felt terribly awkward. This factor prevented me from enjoying the film, so probably a dubbed version will feel much better, though.

    As for the rest, it felt like a cheap, unoriginal thrillers whose resources seem to be limited to things lifted from Hitchcock movies; the plot is a rehash of ideas we have all seen before with only some slightly original bits thrown in. David Kelly is one of the highlights of the film, as he seems to have the best dialog writing in the movie, as is Lucía Jiménez delightful anatomy, which is explored throughly in the movie.

    Avoid.
  • This is one of those quirky little offbeat movies that go completely unrecognised by the viewing public, only to turn up unannounced on late-night TV one night years later. I saw it was on, realised I knew absolutely nothing about it, and sat down to watch it...and was pleasantly surprised by an affectionately made film that feels like a TWILIGHT ZONE episode writ large.

    The plot is like something out of a 1950s-era pulp novel (or maybe Stephen King's CELL) and the story unfolds at speed. Layers of mystery, paranoia and suspense are built up enshrouded in a kind of finesse that only Spanish filmmakers seem to know how to achieve these days.

    The international funding allows for a decent Hollywood actor (THE DARK HALF's Timothy Hutton) and a host of other genuinely good performers, including Lucia Jimenez's sympathetic heroine and David Kelly's quirky villain. Really, it's the originality that stands out here, with a series of bizarre situations, all handled ably and depicting events you're not likely to see anywhere else. I love this stuff!
  • math18716 September 2009
    I'm not sure I've seen the 'Gloomy Sunday' reference explained here. 'Gloomy Sunday' was written by Hungarian composer Rezső Seress in 1933. The song is legendary for (allegedly) causing people to commit suicide after hearing it. Check out Wikipedia (search 'Gloomy Sunday') for the very interesting background on the song.

    As for the movie, I really thought it was first-rate. I found it at the video store, and got it thinking it might at least entertain me. It did more than that - the plot had me hooked from the first five minutes on.

    A "Kovak Box" is explained in the movie, but that itself is a reference to the "Skinner Box" of B.F. Skinner. This article, which comes from Snopes.com provides some very interesting background tidbits to the movie - you will recognize where certain plot elements come from - http://www.snopes.com/science/skinner.asp.

    If you like movies with a lot of intrigue, this is a great one to rent.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Best selling science fiction author David Norton is invited to a conference in a beautiful Mallorca hotel. David soon becomes aware that he's been dragged into something big and dangerous when people around him start committing suicide, including his fiancée, after receiving a strange phone call.

    The Kovac Box is a rather good movie, it's just a little forgettable, it could have been something rather good, it's just a little lacking in imagination and style, but on the whole it's a good mix of thriller and sci fi. The ending I found a little frustrating.

    Great music throughout, in keeping with the film, really lovely location filming, and well acted, Timothy Hutton puts in a very good and solid performance as Hutton. Also some interesting moments in the film which make you question what's going on.

    Overall still a worthy 7/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If you ever thought about writing a book, this would be the way to do it. (IMO) The idiot 'rating/raters' on IMDb did not at all understand what a masterpiece of a story is!! No fancy FX, no car chases, just pure mystery and suspense that keeps you glued to the end.

    They pulled this off so well that the end made me go crazy with appreciation for this film! The bad guy plays the whole game from beginning to end and despite the illusion of the good guy winning in the end, the bad guy still got exactly everything he set after. I don't say these words often but: It was wonderful!

    It lost a star because I selfishly would have liked a slightly more expanded/significant ending but that by no means is saying that they left anything unanswered! You got your ending through and through. Everything made sense (If you paid attention!). I would have also liked a higher quality camera to have been used and slightly better camera work, but again it in no way took from this wonderful movie!

    Blows nonsense-suspense story, like Alan Wake, out of this solar system! This should just not be missed. They brush on so many deeper subjects that its kinda a shame the ride was so short. At the same time I understand their reason for the mystery and focus. Just so well played I can't say it enough.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It's a complicated plot. David Kelly, as Frank Kovak, is an ancient and brilliant scientist who has invented a kind of chip that can be implanted in an unsuspecting victim's neck. He's had this done more than a hundred times and all these unknowing subjects are walking around on Mallorca, the tourist mecca in Spain's Balearic Islands. The chips can be activated when the subject hears Billy Holiday singing "Gloomy Sunday." When they are activated, the subject commits suicide. Any attempt to tinker with the chips sets them off. De rigeur in these kinds of stories.

    This happens to the bride of David Norton (Timothy Hutton). She jumps from a hotel balcony and splashes. In fact, there is a rash of similarly motivated suicides on Mallorca and the despondent Hutton runs into another jumper (Lucia Jimenez) who survives only because her fall was broken by an awning.

    The two join forces and Hutton, a successful science fiction writer, finally tracks down the malefactor, Kelly, who nevertheless succeeds in prompting about a hundred people to leap to their deaths in The Caves of Hell on the island. Kelly is dying of a brain tumor and tries to blackmail Hutton into shooting him. He succeeds after threatening to reactivate Jimenez's chip so that she'll off herself successfully.

    It's a perplexing movie. A good deal of imagination has obviously gone into the plot, which hangs together nicely. Except, I suppose, once the conundrum is clarified, all the potential victims need to do is to make sure they're never in a position to listen to Billy Sunday again. (Jimenez, when hearing the tuneful trigger, manages to stay under water long enough to escape the consequences.) It's slow and there's little in the way of action but I rather liked it. Frank Kovac is the evildoer, of course, but he's so wizened and he sounds so sweet that it's difficult to categorize him as thoroughly evil. He is, after all, a sick and dying human being who is facing what remains of his bleak future with dignity and without complaint. It's so much better than casting some tattooed moron as the heavy.

    Timothy Hutton gives a subdued performance, projecting the presence of a man whose would-be wife has recently done a nose dive off a hotel balcony. Lucia Jimenez is there primarily to provide a threatened female. (She and Hutton both know she's sporting one of those chips in her neck.) She does a professional job, though, and she has sensual features and a nice figure, so we'll let her stay in the picture and be threatened. She does NOT wind up in bed with Hutton, or together with him on the departing airplane either, which is a blessing because the alternative is a terrible cliché.

    The spare musical score by Roque Banos is mysterioso -- somber and spooky. The director may need a little seasoning. The movie has no touches that anyone would consider out of the ordinary. Not that every film MUST be full of directorial razzle-dazzle. But let me give one example of what I mean.

    Hutton and Jimenez have discovered the secret to the rash of suicides and have come into possession of records that support their conclusion. They take them to the American embassy. The men on the other side of the desk do what these movies always require of them -- they don't believe a word of it. So how does the director handle this formulaic situation? Not like Hitchcock did in "The Man Who Knew Too Much", and not like Roman Polanski in "Frantic." Instead, after the evidence is presented, the Consul shakes his head and smirks while denying that it constitutes proof or, indeed, anything suggestive enough to be worth pursuing. It's as if Hutton and Jimenez were two nuts. The stereotypic template is followed down to the last millimeter.

    But you can easily get over these occasional directorial vacations -- the cross-cutting between the people about to leap to their doom and the car speeding to their rescue. The plot's the thing. And it's not bad.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    David Norton(Timothy Hutton)is a best-selling author that of course controls the heroes, villains and subject matter of his 25 novels. Without explanation the real world starts imitating his fictional world...to be exact just like his very first book. While speaking at a conference on a Mediterranean island, he is approached by a strange fan Frank Kovak(David Kelly); and his fiancée receives a mysterious phone call and jumps to her death from their hotel balcony. Soon others around him begin committing suicide. Is this a scientific experiment carried out by the government...similar to circumstances in his first novel? And how does Kovak figure in all this? Suspense with disturbing content. Also in the cast: Lucia Jimenez, Georgia Mackenzie, Gary Piquer and Annette Badland.
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