Novelist Adrian Messenger (John Merivale) believes a succession of ostensibly isolated “accidental” deaths are really related murders. He asks his friend Anthony Gethryn (George C. Scott struggling with an inconsistent English accent), a former MI5 intelligence officer, for help but is killed himself in a crash when his plane is sabotaged.
The sole survivor of the air crash, Raoul Le Borg (Jacques Roux) – acting on a message given to him by the dying author – works with Gethryn to decipher the mysterious and unusual deaths of eleven men on a list provided by Messenger.
Gradually it transpires that the men named in the list were all Japanese prisoners of war in Burma with Messenger during WWII and that they and others were betrayed by George Brougham (Kirk Douglas), a wartime informer and a long-lost brother to a British aristocrat who is now murdering his way to the inheritance of a large estate.
Gethryn realises that Brougham is only two killings away from claiming his prize and sets about ensnaring the villain before his sinister scheme is complete.
The main gimmick here is the all-star cast – Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, and Tony Curtis – who are all heavily disguised in character roles and only revealed at the end when they break the fourth wall, peel off their masks, and wink and gurn for the camera.
A newspaper article in The People subsequently exposed the gimmick, revealing that most of the stars did not actually appear in the film, save for the brief unmasking scene at the end.
Burt Lancaster’s role as a female anti-fox hunting protester was played by an Irish actress called Marie Conmee, who was sworn to secrecy, while Frank Sinatra’s gypsy was, in fact, Hollywood look-alike Dave Willock.
The major part of Kirk Douglas’ role was reportedly played by American actor Jan Merlin.
There’s an impressive soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith.
George Brougham/Vicar Atlee/Mr Pythian/Arthur Henderson
Animal Rights Protester
George C. Scott
Raoul Le Borg
Lady Jocelyn Bruttenholm
Marquis of Gleneyre
Sir Wilfrid Lucas