US Naval officer Fergie Howard (Steve McQueen) and brainy young scientist Jason Eldridge (Jim Hutton) conspire to break the bank of a Venice casino with the help of a shipboard missile-tracking computer known as MAX.
Their scheme starts by taking a sumptuous hotel suite overlooking the bay in which their ship is anchored and sending their accomplice, easily-frightened Southerner Ensign Beau Gilliam (Jack Mullaney) off to the casino to observe the machinations of the roulette wheel.
The data he collects is then flashed back to the ship using a signal lamp and fed into the computer which then determines the upcoming winning numbers. These are then relayed back to the conspirators ashore who head off to make a killing at the roulette table.
Unfortunately, the signals are spotted by the fleet admiral (Dean Jagger) – whose daughter Julie (Brigid Bazlen) has coincidentally become romantically involved with one of the plotters – leading him to believe he has stumbled on a sinister plot to blow up the entire fleet.
Confusion sets in on a grand scale as the plot thickens to include a blustering Russian consul who thinks WWIII is being launched, a nervous Italian government agent and a drunken signalman (Jack Weston). The scene quickly degenerates into one of complete and utter bedlam.
Paula Prentiss looks stylish as Fergie’s former girlfriend, Pam.
This is what passed in 1961 as a saucy Cold War comedy, but Dr Strangelove it isn’t. McQueen was never at his best in this sort of thing and it needed Cary Grant or Tony Curtis (or both) to make it work.
Lt Fergie Howard
Signalman Burford Taylor
Ensign Beau Gilliam
Inspector of casino games