Here are George Sanders’ best films of the 1970s:
THE KREMLIN LETTER (1970)
Near the end of his screen career George Sanders had one of his most unique, scene-stealing roles. He played a character nicknamed Warlock in John Huston’s classic thriller THE KREMLIN LETTER. The story is about a group of old spies who come out of retirement to help a new agent retrieve a document from the Soviet Union. George’s character is a cultured homosexual who performs as a drag queen when he’s not working undercover as a spy. Huston had originally chosen someone else for the role, but 20th Century Fox wanted a “transatlantic” name. Filmed in four countries, the scenes set in Russia were actually shot in Finland. Though not a major hit in its day, THE KREMLIN LETTER has achieved a cult status and is on many critics’ lists of must-see espionage capers. It is also cited as among Huston’s best, as it combines elements from both THE MALTESE FALCON and THE ASPHALT JUNGLE.
RENDEZVOUS WITH DISHONOR (1970)
This was an Italian-German production, filmed in Italian. It was originally called APPUNTAMENTO COL DISONOR, or APPOINTMENT WITH DISHONOR. George is cast as a military character. He portrays a strict general who oversees a thoughtful army officer, played by Michael Craig. Both men are caught up in a civil war against the Turks on the island of Cyprus. The drama benefits from on-location photography and also features Klaus Kinski. Its director, Adriano Bolzoni, was known more for spaghetti westerns and crime dramas than for making war films.
DOOMWATCH was released just before George Sanders died. It was based on a hit British science fiction series that told ecologically-minded stories. Actor John Paul who plays Dr. Spencer Quist in the movie is billed under the bigger names, but he was the star of the TV program. George is cast as an admiral named Sir Geoffrey who gets drawn into a situation that spirals out of control when people eat contaminated fish and develop strange symptoms.
ENDLESS NIGHT (1972)
In this film George Sanders presides over an all-star cast. The psychological murder mystery is based on one of Agatha Christie’s later novels (reportedly her personal favourite). George plays a crafty family lawyer who also happens to be the uncle of Hayley Mills’ character. The two stars had worked together a decade earlier for Walt Disney and almost made another picture in the interim. When ENDLESS NIGHT underperformed at the British box office, not only was Agatha Christie was greatly displeased, but the producers failed to secure distribution in North America. It was released in England in early October, five months after George Sanders’ death. There would be one more G.S. movie after this.
PSYCHOMANIA was released in Britain in early ’73. It didn’t reach American shores until a year later. Also titled THE DEATH WHEELERS, the last George Sanders movie is a cult classic. It’s about a group of bikers who come back from the dead after making a suicide pact. George plays Shadwell, butler to an eccentric psychic whose son is a biker dude. The son turns his soul over to the satanic Shadwell, then terrorizes the countryside with his hellacious gang. Action sequences, classic music and haunting imagery enliven the proceedings, as well as a surprise ending. George was top-billed in PSYCHOMANIA, and as one reviewer noted, it was ironic the actor would take his life a few months after making a film about suicide.