J. LEE THOMPSON’S THE AMBASSADOR — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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The Ambassador is very likely one of the better Cannon Films/Golan-Globus productions. This was one of eight collaborations between the notorious producers and action maestro J. Lee Thompson (The Guns of Navarone, Death Wish 4, Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects, The White Buffalo), and overall it’s got to be one of the most earnest political action thrillers that I can think of. This film really thought it had some quick and easy answers for peace in the Middle East; you have to admire the sense of chutzpah at work here. Starring Robert Mitchum, who seemed half (if not fully) in the bag for most of the film as the U.S. Ambassador to Israel who becomes entangled in various conspiracies both personal and international, the film’s script was written by Max Jack (with uncredited work provided by Ronald M. Cohen), and was mildly based on the Elmore Leonard novel 52 Pick-Up (they borrowed the sex-film blackmail subplot but that’s about it), which itself would be officially made by Cannon Films as a feature film by John Frankenheimer a few years later. 2Rock Hudson, in his final screen performance, had lots of fun as Mitchum’s slick and lethal right-hand man and security advisor, and doesn’t look like someone suffering from the AIDS virus, as he had to have been sick during production. The pairing of these two legendary old-timers brings a level of gravitas to the proceedings. Ellen Burstyn was great as Mitchum’s world-weary and cheating wife, and it must be said, at 52 years of age, she looked super sexy in her topless scene. Donald Pleasence got some solid supporting bits, while the entire production as a whole felt more robust for your typical Cannon feature. You have to hand it to the producers — they knew how to court talent and how to package all of the ingredients in order to make a sale. Create that tagline, get that verbal commitment, craft a quick and sexy poster — BOOM!

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Crisply edited by future big-time cutter Mark Goldblatt (Terminator 2, True Lies, Bad Boys 2) and shot by a then up and coming Adam Greenberg (Terminator 2, Alien Nation, Snakes on A Plane), veteran director Thompson never paused for a moment, keeping a fast pace with minimal distractions, and building to a crescendo of over the top and ridiculous bloody violence that reminds you of who was in charge of this unique, slightly odd, but undeniably entertaining obscurity. The almost two-in-one musical score felt out of place and not in tandem with the rest of the elements. Reportedly, Mitchum and Hudson fought with each other all throughout the shoot, which was filmed on location in Israel. Telly Savalas was at one point attached to the role that Hudson eventually took, and it’s entirely possible that the film may also hold the record for the longest opening text scroll of all time.

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