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When a man (Richard Chamberlain) is washed up on the beach of a small French village with no memory, he is befriended by the local doctor (Denham Elliott), who not only removes the bullets from his body, but finds a Swiss bank account number embedded into his thigh. Now recovered, he goes to Switzerland and discovers that his name is Jason Bourne. When an attempt is made on his life, he takes as hostage Canadian economics teacher Marie (Jaclyn Smith), in a bid to escape. As he tries to remember who he is, Bourne realises that there are some similarities between his vague memories and the reported actions of a feared terrorist.

Review by Louise Keller:
After having seen (and loved) Doug Liman’s 2002 fabulous action thriller starring Matt Damon and Franka Potente, I was curious to see this original version made especially for television back in 1988. I must also add, I was not overly hopeful that it would hit the mark. After all, how could a two-part television actioner with tv stars of its day, match the impact? It was not until I began watching it, I was blissfully unaware of its four hour running time, and that I was in for a long innings.

After a fairly standard beginning, The Bourne Identity starts to hot up when Bourne asks a taxi driver to take him to the most exclusive hotel in Zurich – the splendid Carillon du Lac – in whose lobby he meets Marie, the beautiful doctor of economics. As he takes her hostage and their time on the run begins, there’s plenty of tension and thrills with car chases and close calls. In fact, Part One is gripping and very entertaining. There’s a point, mind you, when there is no real reason for Bourne to keep Marie as a hostage (except to keep the glamour in the storyline), but this is only one of the Hollywood excesses that we encounter. Chamberlain is chillingly effective as the man who is tormented by the past he cannot remember (he received a Golden Globe nomination for his role), while Jaclyn Smith is convincing and watchable as Marie. Smith already had a string of dramatic television roles to her credit since her Charlie’s Angels rise to fame, and puts a lot of heart into this role. She is beautifully photographed (I believe she was married to cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts at the time), and was certainly one of the most photogenic actresses in the 80s. But the love scene is as plastic as that in Pearl Harbor: the two lovers shot in slo-mo by the fire, her shock of hair thrown back dramatically, lips meeting slowly, sexy camisole revealed, the camera panning to a concluding shot of a painting of cupid on the foot of the bed.

The second Part begins by recapping the previous few tense minutes in the Paris bank, but then proceeds to become a pretty standard actioner with some of it being just plain dull. Plenty of flying bullets and a very long-winded screenplay, with a kiss thrown in for good measure, but despite some wonderful shots of Paris – from the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the back of Notre Dame, it never captures the realistic European atmosphere of the 2002 movie. I especially enjoyed the scene on the Bateaux Mouches when Bourne lunches with proprietor of the dress shop. It’s an edgy scene, and while Bourne is learning about his past, it’s hard not to be distracted by the fabulous scenery around us. The ending may be rather melodramatic, but there’s enough of interest in this DVD to warrant a look. Especially, as it will give an even greater appreciation for the stunner of a film version.

Published September 5, 2002

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(US 1988)

CAST: Richard Chamberlain, Jaclyn Smith, Anthony Quayle, Peter Vaughan, Denham Elliott

DIRECTOR: Roger Young

RUNNING TIME: 240 minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES: Cast and crew – selected film highlights listing

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: September 2, 2002

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