Occasionally I will dig deep into a streaming service and unearth an old movie you haven’t seen because, in all likelihood, you’re younger than me. I’m not talking blockbusters here, I’m talking movies that probably didn’t get much attention when they were fresh but that still have entertainment value and, if you’re older than I think, nostalgic value.
It’s my attempt to get you to see something you otherwise wouldn’t have and to make the best use possible of modern streaming services which feature fewer and fewer new movies. So let’s go back in time and have some fun this weekend. Today’s Rewind:
The Osterman Weekend
Director: Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs)
Where: Hulu (May be on other streaming services, this is just where I found it)
Ah, 1983. The Cold War was in full swing and there was a cultural paranoia that Russian sleeper agents were plentiful. See that nice couple that just moved in across the street from you? They have 2 kids, a white picket fence, a dog and you see them in church every Sunday, those guys? Yep, Russian spies. Into this atmosphere comes Peckinpah’s adaptation of the Robert Ludlum novel, The Osterman Weekend.
Underused 80’s actor Rutger Hauer plays John Tanner, a star of his own wildly popular expose-style television show where he tells the unvarnished truth and frequently takes on government officials engaged in cover-ups or abuses of power. After a particularly popular piece on America’s favorite punching bag, the CIA, along comes CIA agent Lawrence Fassett, played brilliantly by John Hurt, to inform the ever-skeptical Tanner that his closest friends from Berkley are actually Russian spies intent on bringing down the entire country.
I know what you’re thinking: Communists from Berkley? Unthinkable! And besides, communists from Berkley don’t engage in clandestine activities, they become tenured professors. But I digress.
Tanner is scheduled to have his annual weekend retreat with his old college pals and their spouses. Having become convinced it’s plausible they are sleeper agents he allows Fassett to wire his entire secluded cabin with what was then state-of-the-art listening and spying devices but which are now rather laughably obsolete tools.
First to arrive is Bernard Osteramn as played by Craig T. Nelson. Osterman is a television producer who already suspects something is different when Tanner attempts to exclude his own wife and children from the annual weekend in the cabins. Who should saunter in next 80’s fans? One of the decades lesser known icons Chris Sarandon from Fright Night and Princess Bride playing Joseph Cardone, a suspicious character with a mean streak and keen sense of survival. After him the last character enters the fray as Dennis Hopper appears as Richard Treymane, a man with a penchant for debauchery and a wife with a killer cocaine habit. Obviously not a huge stretch for a younger Hopper.
The rest of the film becomes a cat and mouse thriller where Tanner looks for cracks in the façades of his friends that will confirm his suspicions that they are indeed Russian Spies waiting for the right moment to destroy the United States. Well, over the deeply patriotic Tanners dead body they will!
Nudged and prodded expertly by the CIA’s Fassett paranoia deepens on both sides and the thriller builds to a pulse pounding conclusion rife with twists, action and all the 80’s red-scare cheese you can handle.
Nothing particularly expert in the directing that I could point to, but these are all skilled actors playing parts written by one of the 80’s great spy novelsits in Robert Ludlum. If you like intrigue and are smart enough to know that any film with Dennis Hopper, Chris Sarandon, Craig T. Nelson, John Hurt and Rutger Hauer must be viewed at least once, then hop in your time machine and spend a few hours trying to see the end to this one coming. It’s a fun ride and the movie does excel at building an exquisite amount of tension that will suck you right into the desolate mountainside cabin with the participants of this dangerous and secretive Osterman Weekend.
Give it a whirl, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and leave your comments below.