The Prize

The Moviegoer

Winning a Nobel Prize is a risky business. People are always laying bear traps and carpet tacks in your path, and there is no doubt that it takes a physical as well as mental giant to collect his rightful prize. The Prize is to be commended for laying bare this little known side of the famous Swedish award.

Actually, this big hunk of nonsense is one of the year's most entertaining films. It's main achievement is molding into one story the ideas of Franz Kafka, Ian Fleming, and whoever writes those Doris Day scripts.

Paul Newman is the man who must destroy what we might call BANANA (Bigoted Alien Nemesis Against Nobel Awards). This is a Fascist group intent on forcing a former comrade (now an American Nobel Prize winner) to refuse the award, denounce the United States, and defect to the Fatherland, thus giving the U.S. a bad name and the Fatherland a pile of top-secret scientific information. The scientist refuses and is subsequently kidnaped. An imposter is then substituted and the whole plan is about to succeed when in steps Newman.

He is an angry young drunk from the United States, scheduled to win the prize for literature. The acute perceptive power possessed by every great novelist tells him that some murky plot is at hand. A dead body and two attempts on his life--once he is pushed off a 15 story building, another time he is almost run down on a narrow bridge--multiply his suspicions.

But no one will believe him since he joked before the action started that one of the prize winners might be an imposter, and since the Fascist group is so well organized. Considering the fact that this group has less cosmic intentions than those acerbic associations of Ian Fleming, this last act is quite amazing. Why, one whole hospital is completely staffed with Fascist members. In the end, though, the antagonist--who is an incredible heavy even by Hollywood standards--lies impaled on a flagpole.

The important question here is how Paul Newman stacks up against James Bond. Well, he is one up on Bond in the drinking department. He squeezes in three or four martinis before breakfast and even while dancing carries a giant brandy snifter around. On the other hand, he is sadly deficient in the love department. One smooth line of his goes, "I didn't know ice cubes could melt so fast."

Speaking of women, the ladies in the balcony who go to see whether Doris Day Will should find this film adequate. Elke Sommer plays Doris' part in much the same way--minus a half inch of pancake makeup and plus a few inches elsewhere.

Besides playing James Bond and James Garner, Newman also plays Joseph K. He lives in a sort of Kafkian nightmare; no one will believe his story, almost no one speaks English, and things are awfully eerie sometimes. Once he bursts into a nudists' lecture hall chased by his antagonists and pleads for help. But his cries are in vain against the rising clamor that he disrobe himself.