Frank Sinatra‘s only British film is an espionage thriller with a fistful of twists.
Sam Laker (Sinatra) is a widower and American industrialist working in Britain, where he designs furniture.
He has just been awarded an international award for industrial design and is planning to travel to Leipzig in East Germany to attend a trade show and show off his invention, taking his 14-year-old son Patrick (Michael Newport) with him for a holiday.
Meanwhile, British Intelligence officer Martin Slattery (Peter Vaughan) – who served with Laker in the OSS during World War II – decides to use the opportunity of Laker’s trip behind the Iron Curtain and his lack of an intelligence profile to coerce him into carrying out an operation for the British Intelligence Service.
They want Sam – a crack marksman – to kill a defector who is about to reveal vital secrets to the Russians. They use Karen Gisevius (Nadia Gray) – a woman who helped Laker during the war when she was part of the underground – as bait.
Patrick Laker is kidnapped at the behest of the East German secret police boss Colonel Hartmann (Derren Nesbitt) and so begins a game of cat-and-mouse between Sam and the two spymasters competing for his services.
He is shifted to Copenhagen to assassinate a spy who has defected to Denmark, but the target for the killing never shows up, and Sam returns to Leipzig, where he is told that Patrick has been killed because the assassination attempt failed.
Angry and vengeful, Sam begins to trail Hartmann, learning his routine and patterns, and waits with a high-powered rifle on a road where Hartmann passes daily. When his car passes, Sam puts the driver in his cross hairs and fires, killing him instantly.
Slattery and Hartmann (it wasn’t him in the car) arrive almost immediately to explain that Patrick is, in fact, still alive, and the man Sam has just murdered was the same defector that Slattery had originally asked him to kill.
Director Sidney J Furie (who had made the excellent The Ipcress Filetwo years earlier) showed his instinctive feel for this genre again, using many clever camera angles to inject a unique visual style into the picture. The Naked Runner was based on a novel by Francis Clifford.
Sidney J Furie