John Huston was eager for a lightweight lark, and The List of Adrian Messenger was just the project he needed. Philip MacDonald's upper-crust British murder mystery allowed Huston to work close to his Irish estate, including fox hunting and quail shooting well suited to Huston's lord-of-the-manor lifestyle.
The mystery itself is clever enough As a former MI-5 agent, George C. Scott is lured into the case when writer Adrian Messenger (John Merivale) gives him a list of 11 names to investigate, just before Messenger is mysteriously killed. Scott combs for clues to connect the names, and the film's promotional gimmick--big-name stars disguised under Bud Westmore's expert makeup--kicks into gear. Thus you get Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum, Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, and Frank Sinatra, barely identifiable under layers of latex, and the mystery never suffers from this playful distraction. Huston enjoyed making this film (he makes a cameo appearance, and his son Tony plays a supporting role), and that pleasure is passed along to the viewer. --Jeff Shannon
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