Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Jim Coburn Runs Ahead of Storyline

Cleveland Press 1966

Writer-director Bernard Girard has taken a long and involved time to make his way toward an O.Henry twist of an ending in a movie enigmatically called "Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round."

The story is about a charming con man (James Coburn) who plans to rob a bank in the middle of Los Angeles International Airport during the arrival of the Russian premier and attendant confusion.

To do this he must buy a blueprint of the bank for $90,000 and to raise the money he has a series of affairs with beautiful girls across the country.

Aside from the pleasures derived, these involvements also provide him with apartment keys -- a definite aid in the pursuit of burglary.

Even before he can begin this caper he must get out of prison, obtains a parole by charming the prison psychologist -- a comely blond -- with whom he later has an affair.

During his perambulation around the country -- a difficult thing since he has broken his parole -- he marries a svelte Swede (Camille Spary) who is secretary to a wealthy Boston matron.

This nod toward respectability helps set up the trick ending many reels of film later.

There are some moments of comedic suspense as the plans for the Russian's arrival almost go awry, but it seldom is the type that either grips you or provides a hearty laugh.

The film's main flaw is its abrupt jumps from one episode to another. I have no objection to using my imagination, but this is less a matter of story-telling subtlety than it is a lack of credible transitions.

Also -- getting more difficult to take are the series of instant seductions, a movie pastime spawned by the James Bond films.

Coburn is a toothsome, lanky, wild-haired and likable rogue. The role in some ways is an extension of the "Our Man Flint" part, though it offers the actor more range.