Released in 1971, director Sidney Lumet’s thriller The Anderson Tapes shows that concerns over illegal wiretapping and eavesdropping by the government on its citizens is not a concern that was born with the passage of the Patriot Act.
The movie opens with Sean Connery, in one of his attempts to separate himself from his iconic role of James Bond, as Duke Anderson, a con just being released at the end of a ten year stretch in prison. As would any red-blooded male would do after such an incarceration, he heads directlyto his ex-girlfriend Ingrid (Dyan Cannon) who is now living in a swank apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, her expenses paid by one of her current lovers. As he checks out her cozy and posh surroundings, he hatches a plan to rob the entire building using a group of handpicked men. However, as he goes about recruiting his gang, he is unknowingly being audio and videotaped by various government agencies. Fun trivia note- The Anderson Tapes was released on June 17, 1971, exactly one year to the day before the break in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters which resulted in the Watergate scandal and the revelation that President Nixon often secretly recorded conversations in the Oval Office.
The Anderson Tapes may be one of Lumet’s lesser remembered titles, but is still a capable little thriller. It moves along at a good pace and tension builds you begin to wonder whether the various government agencies will piece together Anderson’s plan. When they do realize what he has been up to, their reaction just may draw a cynical laugh.
Lumet has assembled an interesting cast for the film. In addition to an early film role for a pre-Saturday Night Live Garrett Morris, the film also features the debut of Christopher Walken as one of the team of thieves assembled by Connery. Conversely, Margaret Hamilton makes her final film appearance here with a character whose disposition is not far removed from her Wizard Of Oz role of Miss Gulch.
The Anderson Tapes arrives on DVD as one of the inaugural titles in Sony Home Entertainment’s new Martini Movies series. Unfortunately, though Sony has gone to the trouble to launch this line, they aren’t going out of their way to make these titles anything special. To describe the extras on the disc as minimal would be a charity. Outside of the film’s original trailer, the only thing else the disc sports are two short featurettes under the umbrella of “Martini Minutes.” Basically, these two spots – titled “How To Play The Leading Man” and “How To Hold Your Liquor” – are nothing more than promos for the other titles in the Martini Movies line with a martini recipe tacked onto the end.
The DVD sports a pretty clean transfer and is definitely recommended for Connery and Lumet completists. While not either of the two’s best work, the film still has some value to be found in watching. At worse, it is good for a rental.
A closing note- The Anderson Tapes is currently set for a remake, though presumably it is still in the scripting stage. Given its subject matter and today’s political clime, this might be one of the few times where a remake has the opportunity to truly add something new to the story.