THE NAKED RUNNER—–the fits-all adage “you’re only as good as your last hit” dogged Frank Sinatra when he followed the smash Von Ryan’s Express with successive thuds Marriage On The Rocks and Assault On A Queen. Impressed with Sidney J. Furie’s flashy direction of The Ipcress File, and always seeking to be hip, Frank tackled the flush espionage genre with this 1967 introduction to narcolepsy. Brad Dexter was an okay second-stringer tough guy type, tarred as the only one of The Magnificent Seven not to break big. Fortuitously, he’d saved Frank from drowning in Hawaii while co-starring in Frank’s None But The Brave. Sinatra rewarded him with a role in Von Ryan and access to his circle of confidantes (careful what you wish for). As a first-time producer here, Dexter had to deal with Sinatra’s legendary whims and hissy fits, bad enough that a sobbing Furie threatened to quit (like Frank gave a damn).
One thing taking up the star’s attention span (it wasn’t the lead-weighted screenplay–about an unwilling hit- man) was his spanking new–and already troubled–marriage to Mia Farrow, 30 years his junior. Shooting in London and Copenhagen stalled when Frank demanded to finish the European-set tale in Palm Springs. Fed-up, Dexter and Furie did an end run using a stand-in and turned in the finished product to Warners without consulting The Boss. Dexter was fired, partially for being cheeky enough to actually stand up to his pal, but also because Sinatra was on a slow boil over Dexter’s telling him he thought the Midlife Mia Match was a Mistake. Friendship: Oversville.
This background gossip is ten times more interesting than the 101 minute deep-freeze of the plot and performing. Critics (those that could keep their eyes open) jeered and the film flopped at #68 for the year, making $3,500,000. Francis Albert’s next two—Tony Rome and The Detective—clicked, but this wet mothball ranks as the worst of his career. Dexter kept plugging away acting but did score in producing Lady Sings The Blues. With Peter Vaughan, Derren Nesbitt, Nadia Gray and Edward Fox. If you’ve never been bored, jog a lap with this exhausted runner.