When I first discovered the Mrs. Pollifax books, I learned about a movie version released in the early 70's. Ever since, I've been trying to see it. Recently, my roommate let me watch Mrs. Pollifax - Spy on his Netflicks account. It had some flaws, but it was still pretty entertaining.
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Mrs. Emily Pollifax (Rosalind Russell) is a widow bored with his new single life. Trying to some way to be useful again, she volunteers at the CIA to become a spy. She happens to catch the eye of Mr. Carstairs (Dana Elcar) who sends her to Mexico on a mission.
The mission is simple. On a certain day, Mrs. Pollifax is to go to a bookstore, repeat some code phrases, and then pick up something to bring back that night. But when she goes to the store, she is kidnapped and knocked out and wakes up on a plane next to John Farrell (Darren McGavin). Where at they going? Will they be able to escape?
This movie is based very closely on the first book in the series (in fact, it was the only book available when the movie was made). It's one of my favorite books in the series, so I will admit I had a hard time dealing with the changes made for the film. Granted, most of the changes were minor, so I am being fairly nitpicky here, and I can understand why some of them were made. One plot change they made actually made the later half of the movie more exciting, although I missed the reveal from the book. Oh, and her hats in this movie are a pale version of the ones described in the books.
Book aside, just how entertaining is the film?
Rosalind Russell was the perfect choice to play Mrs. Pollifax. She brings the right feistiness and resourcefulness to the role while still appearing human. It really is a star vehicle, and she shines. Darren McGavin is good here as the hardened Farrell. The rest of the cast are mostly just supporting players, but they made their characters seem real, and we come to care for them.
The pace of the movie is the biggest weakness. While the story is fun overall, it does have some slow spots. Part of that is the pace of the source material. As much as I love the book, I do admit it has some slow parts. That's true here, too, although some scenes are brilliantly played, making them more interesting than in the book. Many movies from the 70's seem slow to me, and I think that hurts this film as well. I found it interesting since I love the books, but a few spots dragged even for me.
For me, Mrs. Pollifax - Spy, was an entertaining movie when I turned off my book to movie editor. I think for many people, it would only be an average film, however.
(And don't get me started on the version starring Angela Lansbury.)
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