May 3, 2015

New Spy DVDs Out This Week From Warner Archive: The Scorpio Letters and Escape From East Berlin

The Warner Archive Collection have been dipping into their spy catalog again recently, and that makes me very happy! Following last month's long awaited made-on-demand release of the elusive David Niven Eurospy title Where the Spies Are, WAC has released two more rare Sixties Cold War movies this week. The Scorpio Letters stars Alex Cord (Airwolf, The Etruscan Kills Again), Laurence Naismith (The Persuaders!, Diamonds Are Forever) and Goldfinger's Golden Girl Shirley Eaton. The 1967 ABC TV movie is a real rarity. To be honest, I hardly know anything about it, so I'll let WAC's description do the talking:
Who is Scorpio and what's his connection to the suicide of a British spy? These are the questions Joe Christopher (Alex Cord, TV 's Airwolf) has been hired to answer. Working for one of England's Intelligence Services, the American ex-cop discovers Scorpio is an extortionist who pressured the agent into taking his life. Teamed with rival operative Phoebe Stewart (Shirley Eaton, Goldfinger), Christopher sets out to smash Scorpio's operation, unaware that the blackmailer knows of their plans and intends to strike the fatal blow first. Based on the novel by Victor Canning, The Scorpio Letters was directed by M-G-M veteran Richard Thorpe (Ivanhoe) and scored by ... Dave Grusin [The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.] in his feature film debut.
Escape from East Berlin (1962) isn't actually about spies per se, but it is about escaping from East Berlin at the height of that Cold War, and that's still very much a subject of interest to this spy fan. Shot in cinema verite style by noir master Robert Siodmak (The Killers, Criss Cross) and based on true events, Escape From East Berlin is a gripping drama of a divided city. I was lucky enough to see it at LACMA several years ago on a double bill with Funeral in Berlin, and I've been hoping for a DVD release ever since. Here's WAC's description:
When his friend Gunther Jurgena attempts to break out of East Germany by crashing his truck through the Berlin Wall, Kurt Schröder (Don Murray) watches in horror as he is shot dead by the border guards. So when Gunther's sister Erika (Christine Kaufmann) follows her brother and barely escapes the same fate, Kurt offers to help. Aided by 26 family members and neighbors who also wish to defect, Kurt tunnels under the Wall, unaware that Erika's parents have betrayed them and that armed troops are about to move in. Based on an actual mass breakout attempt that occurred in January 1962, Escape from East Berlin is a masterful tale of thrills and suspense.
Both MOD titles are available directly from the Warner Archive Collection (The Scorpio Letters, Escape From East Berlin), or from Amazon (The Scorpio Letters, Escape from East Berlin). Retail is $21.99, but both vendors offer discounts.

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