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Puppet on a Chain 
Written by: on March 16th, 2012

Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1971
Director: Geoffrey Reeve
Writers: Alistair MacLean, Don Sharp, Paul Wheeler
Cast:Sven-Bertil Taube, Barbara Parkins, Alexander Knox, Patrick Allen, Vladek Sheybal, Ania Marson, Penny Casdagli, Peter Hutchins

DVD released: March 20th, 2012
Approximate running time: 98 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: Scorpion Releasing
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95

Synopsis: A Interpol Narcotics Bureau agent is sent to the Netherlands to help break up a international drug smuggling operation.

The screenplay for Puppet on a Chain was co-written by Alistair MacLean, the author of the novel from which this film was adapted. A few of his more notable novels include The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare and Force 10 From Navarone. Key collaborators on Puppet on a Chain include cinematographer Jack Hildyard (The Bridge on the River Kwai, Modesty Blaise), composer Piero Piccioni (The 10th Victim, Story of a Cloistered Nun) and filmmaker Don Sharp (Psychomania), who worked in various capacities on Puppet on a Chain, most notably directing the boat chase sequence.

When it comes to espionage thrillers there is a formula that all of them all abide by and in this respect there often is a predictability to them. And while this level of familiarity does often wears itself out quickly. The one area in which most espionage thrillers often set themselves apart from the rest of the pack, are their actions set pieces. In this regard, Puppet on a Chain is at its best. Unfortunately the actually story at hand is a convoluted mess, that will leave most viewers bewildered.

Visually outside of the aforementioned actions set pieces, the direction is fairly routine. Another area in which this film is often lacking is its meandering pacing, that is hindered by way too many moments were things get bogged down.

Performance wise, the cast are at least serviceable in their respective roles. With the casting of Sven-Bertil Taube (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) in the role of this film’s hero proving to be this film’s biggest misstep. On the other hand, the casting of Vladek Sheybal (Billion Dollar Brain) in the role of this film’s main villain, proves to be this film’s most durable asset.

Trying to adapt a novel to the silver screen can prove to be a tricky proposition. Case in point Puppet on a Chain and what should have been an interesting premise, ends up being a forgettable espionage thriller.

The DVD:

Scorpion Releasing presents Puppet on a Chain in a anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s intended aspect ratio. Though significantly improves upon previous home video releases for this film. There are some instances of colors fluctuation and black levels are at best average. Also there are mild instances of print debris that varies in degree throughout.

This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. Back noise is minimal, dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced.

Extras include a trailer for the film (3 minutes 27 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), a alternate scene from the U.S. version of the film (2 minutes 26 seconds – 1.33:1 full frame) and a well rounded audio commentary with 70’s film historians – Paul Scrabo, Todd Garbarini and Lee Pfeiffer. Topics discussed in the audio commentary include comments about the cast, the crew and various other production related topics. Rounding out the extras for this release are trailers for Quest for Love, Girly, Skateboard, The Last Grenade and Where the Boys Are ’84. Overall Puppet on a Chain gets a good DVD release from Scorpion Releasing.

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