For some reason, this year's Nobel prize in literature has been awarded to the young author Andrew Craig, who seems to be more interested in women and drinking than writing. Another laureate is Dr. Max Stratman, the famous German-American physicist who comes to Stockholm with his young and beautiful niece Emily. The Foreign Department also gives him an assistant during his stay, Miss Andersson. Craig soon notices that Dr. Stratman is acting strangely. The second time they meet, Dr. Stratman does not even recognize him.
Paul Newman ... Andrew Craig
Elke Sommer ... Inger Lisa Andersson
Edward G. Robinson ... Dr. Max Stratman / Prof. Walter Stratman
Diane Baker ... Emily Stratman
Micheline Presle ... Dr. Denise Marceau
Gérard Oury ... Dr. Claude Marceau
Sergio Fantoni ... Dr. Carlo Farelli
Kevin McCarthy ... Dr. John Garrett
Leo G. Carroll ... Count Bertil Jacobsson
Sacha Pitoëff ... Daranyi, Dark Henchman (as Sacha Pitoeff)
Jacqueline Beer ... Monique Souvir, Dr. Claude's 'Secretary'
John Wengraf ... Hans Eckhart
Paul Newman and Edward G. Robinson struck me as a curious combination, so I chose to watch "The Prize" not having any idea what it was about.
This story about a number recipients in Stockholm about to receive their Nobel Prize, will show how their lives are intertwined in the days prior to the annual event. It is a mystery story that I almost gave up on after a handful of minutes -- my own fault for being impatient. A flower takes time to blossom, and so does a movie that is over 40 years old. But I am glad I didn't switch it off.
The intrigue does start to capture after a while and the insights the viewer is granted are satisfying, while our hero is denied these sensations as no one believes him. The 21st century participant of this drama may find parts predictable, but it is very enjoyable, even if a little dated.
Paul Newman gives everything you would expect. And you could say the same for Elke Sommer, since I wouldn't expect anyone to describe her as a terrific actor -- good performance for her, and she always wonderful to look at. I would have enjoyed more screen time by Edward G. Robinson in this role that had him more timid than I am accustomed to.
I recommend this movie to everyone that enjoys these actors, although one viewing is probably enough.
Director Mark Robson tilts his hat to Hitchcock with this adaptation of an Irving Wallace novel. A slick, light-hearted thriller of international intrigue, with a dash of sex and humour thrown in, "The Prize" is actually BETTER than some of the stuff Hitchcock was making around that time (eg Torn Curtain and Topaz). No doubt, part of the reason for the Hitchcockian similarities is due to the fact that this film was scripted by Ernest Lehmann, who just a few years previously had written North By Northwest. Anyone who remembers North By Northwest will probably recollect the famous auction house scene, and here, in "The Prize", Lehmann has written-in an almost identical scene in which the hero narrowly evades capture by creating a stir at a nudists' conference!
American writer Andrew Craig (Paul Newman) is in Stockholm for the Nobel Prize Ceremony, for which he has won the Literature award. Known for his boozy antics, as well as his distinct lack of respect for those in authority, Craig is assigned a personal assistant, Inger Lisa Andersson (Elke Sommer), to keep him in check during his stay. Less well-known is the fact that Craig has been suffering from writer's block for several years, and has been writing cheap crime novels under a pseudonym in order to make ends meet. With his nose for a mystery he soon sniffs out some very curious goings-on at the ceremony. He becomes increasingly convinced that the Physics Prize Winner, Dr Max Stratman (Edward G. Robinson) has been kidnapped and replaced by a double. Since no-one will believe him, it is left to Craig and his pretty Swedish assistant to uncover the truth.
"The Prize" actually starts quite slowly, with an amount of time set aside for character introductions and plot exposition that impatient viewers might find excessive. However, the build-up pays off brilliantly once the action gets underway and all the jigsaw pieces of the plot drop into place. Modern film-makers seem to be of the opinion that the best approach is to hurl the audience straight into the action, but "The Prize" proves conclusively that audiences get far more excitement and enjoyment when the plot and characters have been constructed with care and detail. In particular, the relationship between the various Nobel prizewinners is an utter joy (especially the husband-and-wife chemistry winners who actually hate each other; and the co-winners of the medical award who accuse each other of stealing their best ideas). There are a great variety of suspenseful and humorous moments in "The Prize". Add to that the game performances, excellent location work, Jerry Goldsmith's good music score, and the general sense of solid, old-fashioned entertainment.... and you're looking at a Hitchcock pastiche par excellence.
Imitation in the film world is not always a bad thing. We can all think of movies that are eminently watchable despite owing an obvious debt to an earlier film or to the work of a particular director. Alfred Hitchcock is one director who has always attracted his fair share of imitators. Films such as Henry Hathaway's `Niagara', J. Lee Thompson's `Cape Fear' or Brian de Palma's `Dressed to Kill' all owe an obvious debt to the master's work (even down to the trademark blonde heroine) but are nevertheless good films in their own right.
All the above films were influenced by the darker side of Hitchcock's work; the strongest influence on `Dressed to Kill', for example, seems to have been `Psycho'. He did, however, have a lighter side, often seen in his spy films which frequently blend suspense with humour. Examples are `The Lady Vanishes', with its two eccentric cricket-loving English gentlemen, `The Thirty-Nine Steps' and, most importantly for our purposes, `North by North-West'.
`The Prize' clearly shows the influence of the lighter Hitchcock. The setting is the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm, and the central character is the winner of the prize for literature, Andrew Craig, an alcoholic American novelist suffering from writer's block. (As numerous figures in the American literary establishment around this time did indeed have a drink problem, it is interesting to speculate who might have been the model for the character). Craig discovers a Soviet-block plot to kidnap Dr Stratmann, the German-born American winner of the physics prize, and to replace him with a double who will use ceremony to announce his defection to East Germany. Like the Hitchcock films mentioned above, the film mixes tension with humorous moments. The tension arises from Craig's attempts to thwart the kidnap plot and to convince the sceptical Swedish authorities of its existence. The humour mostly arises from the scenes featuring the other prize-winners. The French husband-and-wife team who have shared the chemistry prize have done so despite the fact that they cannot stand each other. (The husband has insisted on his mistress accompanying him under the guise of his `secretary', while the wife enjoys flirting with Craig). The American and Italian co-winners of the prize for medicine constantly bicker about which of them has plagiarised the other's work. (The peace prize winner does not appear to feature in the film, although a pacifist is sorely needed to keep the peace among the others).
Even the scenes featuring Craig are not always to be taken seriously. Although there are genuine moments of suspense, such as the scene with the car on the bridge, there are humorous moments as well. As other reviewers have pointed out, the scene at the nudist convention owes much to the auction scene in `North by North-West', also written by Ernest Lehman. The humour here arises from the contrast between the seeming absurdity of Craig's actions and their underlying serious purpose- he is trying to attract the attention of the police because he is in danger from the villains.
There are a number of effective performances, especially from Paul Newman as Craig and Edward G. Robinson as both Dr Stratmann and his double. The result is a superior piece of entertainment, not quite as good as Hitchcock at his best, but better than most of his sixties movies except `Psycho'. It is certainly closer to authentic Hitchcock than his last two spy films, `Torn Curtain' and `Topaz'. 8/10.