We’re very lucky in this day and age to have our favorite movies available on home video so we can watch them over and over again. Major studio look to video to make a few extra bucks from a hit, or hope that a little seen movie can find an audience. But what of the films that didn’t come from a major studio, or are older films that the studios don’t think has enough of an audience for to make it worth their while to put on DVD or Blu-ray? Thankfully we have many specialty video companies now that give new life to obscure, cult or simply forgotten films.
Kino Lorber is one such company, rescuing these “lost” films and giving them new life. One such recent release is the Cold War thriller Who? (aka RoboMan) starring Elliott Gould and Trevor Howard. The story focuses on a scientist, Dr. Lucas Martino (Joseph Bova), badly injured in a horrific automobile accident at the East German (?) border. Rescued by the Germans, Martino’s injuries are so bad that when he is returned to the Americans, the only semblance of his humanity is is right arm and his eyes. His head is completely encased in metal with only his eyes visible, his voice has been altered due to the accident, but his mind is remarkably sound. But … is this actually Dr. Martino or some sort of imposter sent over by “the enemy” to gain information about Martino’s work on the “Neptune project”? (And don’t ask what the Neptune project is, because the movie never tells us.) It’s up to US interrogator Sean Rogers (Elliott Gould) to grill the man to determine if he is indeed Martino and can be allowed to go back to work.
To say Who? is a bizarre little film is an understatement because the whole concept is odd, and never seeing one of the lead actors’ real face is also a bit off-putting, even in flashbacks Martino’s POV is the camera so whoever he is with is speaking directly to the viewer. The film does switch, a bit disconcertingly at first since there is no on screen information, between the past and the present with Martino being rebuilt and then interrogated by the Germans (although it could be Russians, that is made about as clear as the Neptune project and Trevor Howard’s “mittle European” accent doesn’t help matters) and the same process with the Americans after his return. But there is a clever little twist near the end that still makes us wonder if the man with are certain is Martino is really someone else (don’t worry though because there is a definitive answer).
Who?, released in 1974 while Gould was at the height of his stardom, is certainly a curiosity and anyone who loves obscure Cold War thrillers will find plenty to interest them here. Kino Lorber has done a nearly stellar job bringing a film of this vintage to Blu-ray. The 1080p HD image is colorful and retains the appropriate film-like quality, making the movie look better than it probably has since 1974. There are, however, two instances of image flickering near the end of the film. One is a scene on a beach and the flicker is very pronounced. This happens again in a later scene but it’s not as bad as the beach scene in which most of the screen was filled with a bright white sky. Other than that, it’s a very good presentation. Audio is also clear for the most part with only a few minor pops here and there, but nothing to detract from the movie.
The Blu-ray also includes an audio commentary track with the film’s director, Jack Gold, moderated by film historian Anthony Sloman. This is one of the better commentary tracks as you are completely aware that the two men are watching the movie as they speak, pointing out specific locations, actors and behind-the-scenes information as the scene plays out. It’s a very entertaining and informative track, and benefits greatly from having the director still available to discuss his film. The only other extras are a gallery of trailers for other Kino Lorber titles The Long Goodbye, Busting (both starring Gould), The Offence (with Howard and Sean Connery) and The Naked Face (starring Roger Moore with Gould as a co-star).
Overall, Who? is an interesting, unusual puzzle of a movie that does its best to keep the viewer as suspicious of the metal man as Gould is even when we’re sure he is who he says he is. And at just over 90 minutes, it doesn’t over-stay its welcome. And just a little trivia note — classic TV fans may recognize the actor playing General Deptford, James Noble, from his role as Governor Gatling on the sitcom Benson.
Kino Lorber generously provided Hotchka with a Blu-ray copy of the film for reviewing purposes.
Elliot Gould interrogates a robot spy…