“The Chairman” is an intense drama starring Gregory Peck as a Nobel Prize-winning scientist that gets involved in an international espionage scheme. This 1969 film was the third collaboration with Peck and director J. Lee Thompson.
The story takes place during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Chairman Mao is ruling China and his communist country and ideals are at odds with the rest of the world. The Soviets and the Americans join together in an explosive effort that involves sending American scientist John Hathaway into China to retrieve some important information. The Chinese have developed an enzyme that will allow plants to be grown anywhere, anytime and in any climate. This formula would make hunger a thing of the past. The world would be able to be fed.
To keep tabs on Hathaway, he is implanted with a communication device in his head. The people back home can listen to everything he says and instruments keep track of his physical measurements. They know when he is under stress, sleeping, or just having a normal conversation. What Hathaway does not know is that the device can blow up inside his head should things go wrong.
Conrad Yama plays Chairman Mao. It’s infuriating to Westerners to hear the propaganda he spews and to see how he has basically brainwashed the people with his philosophy and statements.
While Hathaway meets with the chairman, the folks back home wonder if it would be worth setting off the transmitter inside his head to kill Mao. If they did, the chairman would be dead, however, Hathaway would not be able to secure the formula.
There are several philosophical and political implications running throughout the entire movie. Hathaway insists he will not take a life, even if he is in danger. During his meeting with Mao he argues that every life is important, while Mao disagrees.
The film is slow moving, however, the ending is intense with edge-of-your-seat action. Will Hathaway get out of China alive?
Peck gives another phenomenal performance, as usual.
Bonus features on the new Blu-ray release from Twilight Time include a mini-film with the basics of the movie, and two alternate scenes from the international release.
The soundtrack is from legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith and the movie was filmed in the UK and Taiwan. It is rated PG.