February 5, 2024

THE SWISS CONSPIRACY: Janssen Does Janssen

1976 / 87 min
Review by Mr. Bonnie😼

I’m old enough to remember David Janssen. Not in his most famous role - the original Richard Kimble in The Fugitive - but he was a television fixture throughout the 70s. Resembling Clark Gable after tying one on, Janssen always came across as a guy whose regular diet consisted of martinis and cigarettes (you could practically smell him on the screen). Those vices eventually got the best of him at the age of 48.

But really, he always looked 48, including his earlier roles. Not only that, his humorless expression and gravelly delivery almost never changed. One had the impression his on and off-screen persona were exactly the same. While he may not have been gifted with a lot of range, there was something about Janssen that made it hard to take your eyes off of him. I don’t know if I’d call it charisma, but his naturalistic approach to acting was oddly appealing. Maybe that’s why he always stuck with it, even in movies. 

Speaking of movies, he appeared in a ton of them, sometimes as the star, more often in key supporting roles. Few were all that memorable, especially those he did in the '70s, where he basically showed up to do his David Janssen thing. There’s little to differentiate David Christopher, his character in The Swiss Conspiracy, from his roles as Steve in Two-Minute Warning or Tom Colt in Once is Not Enough

David Janssen suffers for his art.
Still, Janssen is the best part of The Swiss Conspiracy, a nearly forgotten relic directed by Jack Arnold, most remembered for his ‘50s-era creature features but who'd since found a lot of work in television. Some nice Swiss locations notwithstanding, this plays a lot like a TV movie…maybe even a lost episode of Harry-O (a series starring Janssen). That isn’t necessarily a strike against it, but the pace, performances and production are generally perfunctory…and sometimes a little sloppy (such as when co-star John Saxon gets shot and continues to scream long after closing his mouth).

Though occasionally convoluted, the plot is kind of interesting, with David Christopher hired by a Swiss bank to protect several clients being blackmailed. If they don’t pay up, their shady doings will be exposed. However, circumstances become even more dire when some of those being blackmailed are murdered. Along the way, David dodges assassins, races through the Alps in his Ferrari, hops in the sack with client Denise Abbot (Senta Berger) and clashes with angry mobster Robert Hayes (John Saxon). It’s all in a day’s work…for Christopher and the grizzled actor playing him.

Arnold ups the wattage a bit for the climax atop a snowy Swiss peak, featuring a nifty twist that the viewer may not see coming (but at least it ain’t a red herring). Elsewhere, The Swiss Conspiracy is simply an agreeable product of its time, with its ‘70s aesthetic, jazzy score, familiar faces (including Ray Milland & Elke Sommer in thankless roles) and David Janssen in the part he was born to play…which is David Janssen. For those of a certain age, that’s probably enough.


A THREE DIMENSIONAL FILMMAKER - An affectionate bio on director Jack Arnold.

JACK ARNOLD: THE LOST YEARS - Another featurette about the director.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By historian Robert Kelly & podcaster Daniel Budnik.

SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Includes an affectionately written essay, “The Swiss Conspiracy: A Gem You Probably Haven’t Seen,” by Lee Pfeiffer.

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