CLASSIC REEL : The Tamarind Seed

Cast: Julie Andrews, Omar Sharif

Year of Release: 1974

Directed by: Blake Edwards

Plot:  While on holiday, a  British civil servant meets and falls in love with a Russian agent.

This underrated 70s romantic drama not only paired Dr Zhivago/ Lawrence of Arabia's  Omar Sharif and Mary Poppins/ The Sound of Music  Julie Andrews- but also served as a comeback for  Andrews, plus adding another collaboration with director Blake Edwards- who happened to be her second husband. And don't expect to hear Julie singing a single note all through the movie, this isn't a musical.

Adapted from Evelyn Anthony's 1971 novel of the same name,  The Tamarind Seed is like the plot of a James Bond movie,  the events in the movie occurring if 007 was on leave, as this was set during the Cold War.  There are definite 007 movie undertones via the opening credits and theme song for example; not surprising as the haunting song was the work of longtime James Bond movie composer, John Barry and the opening credits was designed by Maurice Binder, who designed the opening credits of the Bond movies until Licence to Kill.

The movie also does a good job of showing, not telling; within a few minutes we see Julie Andrews' character- Judith- we learn she's a widow reeling from a painful breakup and is in Barbados to recuperate. She immediately catches the eye of a very attractive Russian, Feodor Sverdlov (Sharif), who tells her he's a military attache when he's actually a spy. Judith's superiors waste no time finding out about her dangerous alliance and warning her about him. Judith is caught between a rock and a hard place while Fedodor constantly leaves us guessing if he's using Judith to get British secrets or he's actually in love with her and wants to defect. A subplot is Judith's boss Jack Loder (Anthony Quayle) who has his hands full seeking to unmask a mole within the British Government and wondering where Judith's loyalties actually lie, her country or her Russian boyfriend. That is actually the least of his problems as the mole he's looking for is right under his nose.

Andrews and Sharif were a great movie pairing and they definitely had chemistry. Andrews was more subdued as the vulnerable Judith, moving from witty to wary in her scenes and she looked lovely
decked out in Dior,  not something a real-life assistant in the British Home Office would actually afford though.

Omar Sharif's character was intelligent, cocky and brimming with confidence, the veteran actor playing him with his usual panache. It was obvious their platonic friendship would evolve to them falling deeply in love, which was so very touching and captivating that leaves the viewers hoping Judith won't get seriously hurt in the end.

It's an underrated spy thriller that will leave you at the edge of your seat. Some scenes, unfortunately, got dragged but the ending more than makes up for it.


The Tamarind Seed was released the same year as the 9th  James Bond movie, The Man With The Golden Gun. 




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