Directed by Charles Jarrott
Written by Marc Stirdivat, from a novel by Robert Sheckley
Starring Michael Crawford, Oliver Reed, Barbara Carrera, James Hampton
Back in the mid-80s, I was at a science fiction convention where Roger Elwood* was a guest. He was working for Disney at the time, and was promoting things with a trivia contest. I gave him a question about Condorman.
He had never heard of it. Nor had most of the audience.
Condorman was based (very roughly) on a novel by science fiction author Robert Sheckley. Though primarily thought of a a writer of humorous SF, Sheckley wrote in various genres.** The Game of X was his entry in the spy spoof genre. It tells the story of a man who gets involved in a minor spy operation but who is mistaken for X, the world’s greatest spy and is forced to become what he is mistaken to be.***
Disney made some major changes. In the film, Woody Wilkins (Michael Crawford) is a comic book creator who even designs a suit for his hero, Condorman. His friend Harry (James Hampton) asks him to bring some papers when Woody is traveling to Istanbul. He meets up with Natalia (Barbara Carrera), a KGB agent who wants the papers, Woody telling her he’s a spy with the code name “Condorman.” Later, Natalia decides to defect – but will only do it if Condorman helps her.
The movie is definitely light entertainment, and ultimately very silly. It was barely released into theaters; I saw it as a sneak preview with The Fox and the Hound, but I never noticed it being advertised after that.
This was the last movie in which Michael Crawford appeared. Usually when I write that, it means it’s a sad comment. However, those who follow the stage know that Crawford became a theater legend, playing the Phantom of the Opera in London and on Broadway. Barbara Carrera continued her spy career in Never Say Never Again.
The movie isn’t a great one, but is an interesting curiosity.
*Known primarily as a packager of anthologies; he did dozens of them, of varying quality and is often cited for killing the interest for paperback short story anthologies by flooding the market with time.
**At the time Condorman was released, he was near the top of 20th century sf authors who had their works adapted for film. This was partly because adaptations of sf novels were rarely made (a situation that continues today).
***The situation is similar to North by Northwest and by The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe, though less serious than the first and less funny than the latter.
****Other than one animated film.