Friday, February 2, 2024

THE SWISS CONSPIRACY (1976) (Film Masters Blu-ray Review)


Label: Film Masters
Region Code: Region-Free 
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 87 Minutes 47 Seconds 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Jack Arnold 
Cast: David Janssen, Elke Sommer, John Saxon, John Ireland, Senta Berger, David Hess, Ray Milland

The Swiss Conspiracy (1976), based on the novel by Michael Stanley, is a euro-crime blackmail thriller directed by sci-fi/monster-movie legend Jack Arnold (The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tarantula) Swiss bank president Johann Hurtil (Ray Milland, The Man with the X-Ray Eyes) hires an American ex-pat investigator David Christopher (David Janssen, Cult of the Cobra), a former Treasury agent now residing in Geneva, to ferret out a group blackmailers who have been terrorizing his clients by threatening to expose their secret bank accounts. Among them we have Chicago hood 
Robert Hayes (John Saxon, Cannibal Apocalypse), Texan Dwight McGowan (John Ireland, Satan's Cheerleaders), Dutchman Andre Kosta (Arthur Brauss, Cross of Iron), and 
beautiful Z├╝rich resident Denise Abbott (Senta Berger, Sam Peckinpah's Major Dundee), whose promised Swiss banking anonymity is being threatened with exposure. Potential suspects arrive by way of the bank's Vice President Franz Benninger (Anton Diffring, Seven Deaths in a Cat's Eye) and his mistress Rita (Elke Sommer, Baron Blood), and even Christopher himself. 

Shot entirely in and around Zurich The Swiss Conspiracy has some wonderful scenery of the snow-covered Alps, the thrills themselves are pretty standard thriller fare, with some decent bullet-dodging sequences and an opening scene of an arms dealer who refuses to pay the blackmail money getting shotgunned to death in the middle a crowded restaurant, as well as a well executed car chase down the twisty roads of the Alps. An  interesting cult 70's relic chock full of familiar faces, including David Hess (The Last House o the Left) as a mob assassin sent to kill the American monster Hayes. The finale involves the Christopher taking a ski lift to hand off a ransom of uncut diamonds high-up in the snow-covered Alps, it's quite a twisty finale, but I thought it buttoned-up a bit too fast. That said this 70's blackmaol thriller set in the Alps is quite charming, delivering a star-studded cast (though Saxon is far too underused!), plenty of intrigue, red-herrings galore and some solid action. 

Audio/Video: The Swiss Conspiracy (1976) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Fim Masters in 1080p HD frame din the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This is advertised as being scanned in 4K from original 35mm archival elements. The image has a softness to it but still looks quite nice with the restoration bringing out those glorious mid-70's color schemes, fashion and decor, and the scenic views of the Alpine mountains look wonderful. The source is in excellent shape with only some minor specking drawing the eye. Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 2.0 dual-mono or lossy 2.0 Dolby Digital with optional English subtitles. Dialogue and the swanky Klaus Doldinger (The Neverending Story) score are well-balanced, moments of gunfire and commotion sounds fine, there are no issues with hiss or distortion. 

As usual Film Masters deliver not just top-notch A/V but some excellent bonus content, starting off with the 15-min  
Ballyhoo Motion Pictures presents, "Jack Arnold: The Lost Years," focusing on the late career years of the filmmaker with film historian Ted Nelson, author Dana M Reeves, who discusses Arnold growing weary of sci-fi flicks for Universal by the late-50s, branching out to Westerns with No Name on the Bullet with Audie Murphy, before doing pics for MGM as both director and producer, a failed Arthur Conan Doyle project he never got off the ground involving legendary matte artist Albert Whitlock. There's also a 28-min "Jack Arnold: A Three-Dimensional Filmmaker" Video Essay by Ryan Verrill and Will Dodson from Someone's Favorite Productions, a new Audio Commentary by Author/podcaster Daniel Budnik and film historian Rob Kelly, plus the 2-min Original 1976 35mm Theatrical Trailer; as well as a 2-min Recut, Newly Restored Trailer, which serves to show just how nice this restoration looks. 

The single-disc release is housed inside standard Blu-ray keepcase with a single-sided wrap, tucked away inside there's 14-Page Illustrated Booklet with liner notes by Lee Pfeiffer, editor-in-chief of Cinema Retro magazine.

Special Features: 
- Ballyhoo Motion Pictures presents, "Jack Arnold: The Lost Years," focusing on the late career years of the filmmaker (14:37)
- Ryan Verrill and Will Dodson from Someone's Favorite Productions present a visual essay, "Jack Arnold: A Three-Dimensional Filmmaker" (28:26) 
- Author/podcaster Daniel Budnik and film historian Rob Kelly join forces to provide a comprehensive commentary track
- 14-Page Booklet with liner notes by Lee Pfeiffer, editor-in-chief of Cinema Retro magazine
- Original 1976 35mm Theatrical Trailer (1:46)
- Recut, Newly Restored Trailer (1:47)

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