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"The most dangerous man in the world. He's about to expose the CIA, the FBI, the KGB...and himself."
The movie opens at Munich's Oktoberfest. Kendig and his team foil a microfilm transfer to an East German spy. However, they purposely do not apprehend Yaskov. Kendig is summoned to Washington, where his supervisor, Myerson (Beatty), is forcing Kendig into semi-retirement and a desk job because Kendig didn't arrest the Russian. Kendig resists, claiming to be "a field man", and, on his own initiative, takes leave, shredding his file en route. It is days before that is discovered. He goes to Salzburg, Austria to "hear some Mozart" and visit an old friend, Isobel Von Schoenenberg (Jackson). It is here that he seizes on the idea of writing a book exposing all the 'dirty tricks' of the CIA, KGB and other 'spy agencies'. Isobel is horrified to read the first chapter and tells Kendig that they'll all come after him to kill him. Nevertheless, he mails copies of the chapters to the various spy chiefs in the US, Russia, China, France and Great Britain. Soon enough, Myerson and Yaskov are after him, just as he wanted.Kendig baits his pursuers by periodically informing them of his location while nevertheless staying one step ahead. Leaving Vienna, he rents Myerson's own Georgia country house, and writes a few more chapters. The CIA trace him there, but the FBI shows up as well, and hearing the firecrackers Kendig sets up to go off, start blasting away at the house with rifles in front of the frantic Myerson, who goes in to a fit of apoplexy as his house is destroyed by the FBI shooters. This scene is accompanied by the aria "Un bel Dì", the suicide scene from Madama Butterfly (Puccini).Kendig flies to Bermuda by seaplane (piloted by a woman portrayed by Matthau's stepdaughter, Lucy Saroyan), then to London, to meet with his publisher (George Baker) to give him the last chapter of the book. Yaskov tells Cutter (Waterston), a former protégé of Kendig's and friend who has been tasked to pursue him, finding out that he is in London. Both the Soviets and the Americans go to London and find Kendig's hotel room, where he has left a tape recording telling them he has finished the book and that he will be escaping Britain by a small plane the next morning. He leaves a copy of the last chapter and the location of the airfield from which he plans to make his escape.In the meantime, Kendig has contacted Isobel, who is under surveillance in Austria by the CIA. She cleverly escapes her watchers and goes to England by hovercraft. Kendig has also contracted with an engineer for a specialized electronic device for the airplane of unknown purpose.Cutter and Myerson threaten Kendig's publisher but he rebuffs their attempts at intimidation. Kendig, on the way to the airfield, suffers a flat tire. He is assisted by the local police, who cordially invite him to wait in the station until the morning. When one policeman recognizes him from a bulletin, Kendig escapes by short-circuiting an electrical socket and stealing a police car.He reaches the airfield in the morning, but the Americans and Russians are hovering overhead in a helicopter. He apparently takes off in his vintage biplane and is pursued by Myerson in the helicopter. He performs intricate loops in the plane evading the pistol shots from Myerson.It is then revealed that the electronic device that Kendig had had built is a specialized remote control device. Kendig is actually still on the ground, controlling the plane from the near-ruinous former control building nearby. Once the plane has cleared the cliffs and is over the English Channel, he presses a button, exploding it, timed just as Myerson has fired at the biplane one more time. The Americans and Russians rush to the cliff, see the wreckage floating in the sea, and conclude that Kendig is dead – except Cutter, who sees through the plan and realizes that Kendig did not die in the plane ("He better stay dead") but decides to keep this insight to himself.Kendig meanwhile returns to meet Von Schoenenberg and they set off for the south of France. Months later, the book has become a bestseller. Kendig is in a bookstore in disguise as a Sikh to purchase a copy. He learns from the clerk that the book is very good and that there is a rumor that Kendig is still alive in Australia. Von Schoenenberg pulls him aside and scolds him for taking too many risks.
Theatrical : 1980-09-26 : United States of America
DVD : 2002-08-20