The Serpent Le Serpent, Night Flight From Moscow (1973)
It’s a hard to find movie and can be hard to watch without subtitles as there are several different languages spoken. The leads are great and it’s a really good “spy” movie. You may find it repetitive after Hitchcock’s 1969 Topaz but it’s quite different in the direction they take. Hitchcock tailored his to an American audience without losing international appeal while Henri Verneuil opts to somewhat confusingly take us through Europe. The split between feature film and documentary was obnoxious at times and disrupted the enjoyment of the movie. I do think this one is actually more accurate than the heavily fictionalized account in Topaz despite Leon Uris’s friendship with de Vosjoli.
The shitty 70’s quality of this movie makes it hard to enjoy at points but it’s an attempt to tell a very, very interesting story. A story predicated upon the defection of Anatoliy Golitsyn. Here’s a decent overview of Golitsyn and Sapphire and the mess he created. And here’s the LIFE interview of Philippe Thyraud de Vosjoli to give a little more context on “Sapphire”. This is a nice example of a spy movie highlighting an important factual event in the history of intelligence agencies. Some day they should pay some researchers to extensively fact-check everything and put out a gritty remake that coherently tells the story with the true reality of the events in contrast with how they were perceived at the time. Golitsyn was contradicted by Yuri Nosenko who was backed by the FBI’s Fedora (Yerbas Lichi or Victor Mechislavich Lesovski) a KGB plant. This to me seems to indicate Golitsyn was initially correct about many things even if his later analysis were less useful but isn’t evidence enough. The implications for Cold War events and their analysis are significant depending on who was telling the truth and why. All in all, the potential, intentional blind eye turned to a dissenting world view by European and American leadership to perpetuate the myths of the Cold War opens up decades old arguments. This is a story that still needs to be told, unfortunately it may never be completely revealed.
p.s. I wonder if Bill Colby ever watched this movie, especially the scene at the lake.