British agent Joseph Rearden (Paul Newman) is assigned to infiltrate a gang called “The Scarperers” which is helping prisoners escape from prison. He is told a famous Russian spy named Slade (Ian Bannen) is expected to make a break and ordered to join him and see where he goes.
Provided with a false identity as a criminal, Rearden plans an elaborate diamond robbery with the mysterious Angus Mackintosh (Harry Andrews) and his enigmatic “secretary”, Mrs Smith (Dominique Sanda) and subsequently attacks a postman in London’s Hatton Garden, stealing a box of diamonds worth £140,000.
Having sold the diamonds and stashed the proceeds away in a Swiss bank, Rearden is captured by the police.
Serving 20 years, he is placed in a high-security jail with the Russian agent, Slade.
Both are subsequently approached by The Scarperers, who execute their jailbreak successfully.
Subsequent scenes in Ireland and Malta are somewhat confusing, but Rearden and Mrs Smith (who turns out to be the daughter of Mackintosh, who was, in reality, a British intelligence chief and was murdered for his involvement) ultimately win out.
Sir George Wheeler
Malta Police Commissioner