This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
There must be a wonderful world inside Alistair MacLean's head. I imagine the climate is fair there, and the winters mild. It is a world where there are no cities that do not drip with intrigue, and only the most romantic of those make the grade: Amsterdam, London, Zurich. Between the cities there are continents occupied by fortresses and dragons, neat continents like Africa and Asia. There are no flatlands inside Alistair MacLean's head, no small towns, no marshes, no boring people, and no real people. Just bizarre, fantastical people who eventually find themselves crowded together into too small a space and have to shoot their way out.
But these people are bored, alas. They are bored because they are romantic heroes who work for the CIA or the international heroin trade, and the ordinary stuff of life is too goddamn dreary for them. They would not know how to operate an alarm clock if you gave them one, but they can defuse bombs and drive speedboats. And they devote their lives to doing things in illogical ways. If something has always been done one way, and not another, they will find a new way to do it no matter what the cost or inconvenience.
Take heroin smuggling, for example. They would never dream of flying it in from Mexico or hiding it in a Lincoln Continental as they did in "The French Connection." No, that would be too mundane. They must infiltrate a 150 year-old family importing business in Amsterdam and set up a complicated system of helicopter drops, midnight boat rides, hollow dolls, trick grandfather clocks and phony Bibles.
Why go to all this trouble? For example, there is the problem of getting the heroin out of the warehouse and into the castle where it will be stuffed into the dolls and grandfather clocks. How do they do this? They take the insides out of Bible, fill them with heroin, and give the Bibles to phony nuns who carry them to the chapel in the castle, where they trade them for real Bibles. Isn't that keen? And so subtle, too, that it takes a trained CIA operative like Barbara Parkins to realize that the nuns are wearing diamond rings on their fingers, and high-heel shoes and mesh stockings.